Thursday, May 17, 2012

On the Jukebox with Erik Gundel

Erik Gundel makes his Puddles of Myself feature debut with his music recommendations of the moment.

Hey there music fans! Puddles of my Podcaster and former main-Puddler roommate Erik Gundel here to send a music missive right at your eye and earholes. What’s going on in music these days? There’s more out there to listen to than ever and, more than likely, no human could possibly take the time to feast their ears upon all of the worthwhile stuff they should. So, at the behest of Matthew, I am here to offer up my selections for music I have been digging lately. What songs would I put into the glowing spaceship of a living room jukebox, enabling me to push a button and then hear them all with a group of friends,  which would then blast us all off into our own interstellar grooves? Keep reading, idiot!

Now, everyone and their mother(s) (C’mon its 2012, people. Obama up!) has a music blog, so what makes me qualified for this platform? Not a lot! I have spent a lot of time playing and listening to music, including a period of study at University. This will be my personal preference, so take that with a grain of sand. I like musical music; that is to say, I enjoy a healthy dose of technical ability and/or thoughtful arrangements. If something is built largely on aesthetics or is a regurgitation of eras long past, chances are it’s not my thing, but I’m sure that’s not entirely true either. I know what I likes and what I doesn’ts. It’s very difficult to not sound like a horse’s ass in this intro!

(Editor’s Note: Gundel once played at a festival with Blitzen Trapper. I mean, those guys wrote this song. Plus, I think he can hear any sound or note and replicate it on his guitar. You will listen to and heed his choices.)



Vijay Iyer Trio- Accelerando (2012)


Jazz. The mere mention can turn many-a-stomach. But is it really so hard to enjoy? I will agree that the modern Jazz scene is about as relevant to popular conversation as the modern leech bloodletting scene. That said, things that are Jazz-y are still around (Nels Cline is still in Wilco, right?) And along comes this record by a piano trio, my most played record of the last two months. I think the best description would be that this is not a jazz band, it’s a band that plays jazz. Most times a jazz composition will be a theme or melody followed by some improvisations and a rephrasing of the melody. This album is far less stratified; when one dude is improvising, the others are coming up with new melodies, developing, and always grooving on a catchy rhythm. To use a basketball metaphor (know your Editor) these guys display incredible off-ball movement. And, to go back to the relevancy issue, they include a very good Flying Lotus cover—perhaps the one artist incorporating jazz into his music in a very exciting and new way.  Give this one a chance. 



Sandro Perri- Impossible Spaces (2011)
This one I don’t feel so compelled to defend.  I don’t know a lot about this guy, other than that he has recorded a good amount of ambient music under some other names. This record sounds like the Dirty Projectors if they weren’t trying to shock you into submission with their awesomeness. There are long songs with shifting arrangements, Hendrix-inspired guitar work, a quavery tenor emoting about love.  To put it succinctly, your ex-girlfriend would probably enjoy this album. Patch things up, send her this youtube link.



Van Dyke Parks- Song Cycle (1968)

This guy is the man. He wrote lyrics for Brian Wilson, and arranged for countless artists including Joanna Newsom and Donovan. His first album is so wild, an extremely carefully arranged pastiche of American songwriting from across the spectrum of pop styles. It is a rickety ride on an old train through caverns, between mountains, and into the Technicolor world of Los Angeles, whose regions and streets provide several of the song titles. His unique vocals and the meticulousness of the arrangements will ensure that this is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it sure is mine. It’s a great album to drink tea to.


Evangelicals- The Evening Descends (2008)

This is an indie rock album from 2008. Love it.


James Blackshaw- Love is the Plan, the Plan is Death (2012)

I would be remiss in not including this guy’s new album. He is probably the best guitar player alive in the general folk idiom (barring Leo Kottke,) and this is just one of several great albums. His newest is made up of solo compositions for nylon-string guitar (he became famous for the 12-string,) with some sparse overdubs, and the sound of his own breathing. It is very beautiful and a personal inspiration to the max. 

Erik Gundel is a multi-instrumentalist living in Brooklyn. He was a member of Motel Motel and has released several solo EPs. His first solo LP will be released this summer. You can listen to his work on his BandCamp site.

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