2006: DeLorean Discoveries
All Hail the Dusty Album Sleeve

How many of you read music zines, magazines, articles, and reviews daily? It takes enthusiasm and ardor, as well as plenty of web surfing, to stay even relatively up to date on the independent buzz bands; never mind finding the time to actually listen to them all. In the world of records and fanaticism, it often feels as if you're either in or out of the loop. For better or worse, a critic's livelihood is based on thriving within that tenuous circle, and in 2006 many of us realized how easy it is to slip from it. You can only embrace something with unbridled fervor for so long; when the dust settles, when we accept that we may never hear every krautrock album ever made, what's left? In short, the love of music – a base desire to hear beautiful varieties of sound every day until we die. Sometimes, when you slip from that fragile 'loop' you lose perspective and can only turn inward. As it turns out, most of us boast album collections vast enough to hold us over during those periods, and thanks to the Delorean section, we can expound on our love for a few old favorites in digital print. So here are some albums that, though not released in 2006, were no less a part of it:

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Manitas de Plata

Flamenco Guitar

[Vanguard Classics]

by Milquetoast

The music of the "Little Silver Hands" drivels into paradox upon mention. It's delicate but full of aggressive yawps that act like percussive incantation, and the fervor of the guitar betrays his passion. It's sonically minimal but, technically, all flourish: a collection of conjurer's tricks, which almost amounts to flamenco with a free-form influence. There are at least 50 distinct flamenco styles, and this record serves as an excellent introduction. My conception of flamenco music is that it's rather un-dancable; more like a raga than the fiery seduction of Andalucía heard elsewhere. While Manitas de Plata do perform more traditional flamenco music, this record fits into a shadowy, Mediterranean side of Spain, glorified but indistinct; formless, without history. It is the oral tradition of the Gitanos, a group of gypsies. Sober and surreal, this record makes fine company for a Sunday morning.

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The New Flesh

Parasite

[Maelstrom]

by S. Kobak

A barrage of releases from 20-somethings with a hard-on for early-'80s post-punk has bombarded the market in the past few years. Some of these albums are stellar examples of the genre's explorative nature and artful presentation. The vast majority of the others suffer from a false sense of nostalgia and come off as cheap musical knockoffs. This generation seems to ignore its roots. We grew up with Nirvana and Amphetamine-Reptile post-hardcore. Most of us didn't dip into pops' Fall records until we attended college. Luckily, The New Flesh, a Baltimore-based trio, are true to their roots. They play loud, feedback drenched hardcore with throat-ripping vocals. Noisy, crude and striking, they deliver with a budding intensity and psychotic maelstrom. Virtually any time I had visitors this year I put this record on – either to make them leave or to encourage them to break my roomate's shit.

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Lee Hazlewood

13

[Smells Like Records]

by Kern

If there were ever an album that makes one painfully aware of its era, it's Lee Hazlewood's 13. As a record it distils everything I imagined the '70s to be into a fondue of beautifully overblown arrangements, boozy brass, and Hazlewood's sad-sack vocals. Listeners can't help but love his caricatures of down-and-out characters who just can't get their act together; like an army of ne'er-do-well, alcoholic Charlie Browns. Despite these seemingly dated elements (or perhaps because of them), Hazlewood's easy, sleazy charm takes what could have been misconstrued as a cheesy relic and magically turns it into a genuine treasure.

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Mark Tucker

Batstew

[Destijl]

by Jspicer

If Batstew has made me want to do anything, it's record an albums worth of music using a car and a mispronunciation of my fiance's last name. Tucker, who lost his marbles and changed his name to T. Storm Hunter to escape his bouts with the past, created a masterpiece in an unhinged and psychotically delicate state. Between conversations with his girlfriend (the inspiration behind Batstew) and his car, Tucker shows glimmers of musical genius with crafty piano play and post-psychedelic tape manipulation. If ever an album walked the line between sanity and insanity, Batstew is it.

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Denim

Back in Denim

[West Midlands]

by David Nadelle

The year is 1989. After accomplishing his masterplan of releasing ten albums and ten singles in ten years, the enigmatic Lawrence, of Felt fame, packed up his band, packed his bags and flew to New York in search of a fresh start with his new concept: a "novelty protest" band called Denim. Although Back in Denim took close to three years to complete, the time spent obsessively tweaking the sound to align with Lawrence's vision was well worth it (initial producer John Leckie left during the recording process after citing Lawrence to be the maddest artist he has ever worked with... and this list includes Phil Spector, John Lennon and Syd Barrett!). Of course the public in 1992 didn't see it that way when it was released and quickly deleted by Boys Own/London Records. Finally reissued earlier this year as advertised ("with absolutely no added extras!"), the album considered the very epitome of a "lost classic" is back. Right from the glam drum-and-handclap intro of "Back in Denim," you know you're hearing something a long distance from any of the familiar Felt territories. If that band's last album, Me and a Monkey on the Moon, pointed a tentative finger in the new direction where Lawrence's head was going, Back in Denim landed the point home with a seriously over-the-top, revisionist set that gingerly borders on both the ridiculous and the sublime – every single time you hear them. Taken as a whole, the album contains the most consistently catchy pop tunes penned by Lawrence. From the pulsating synth-driven "Fish and Chips" to the legend-baiting "Middle of the Road" ("It's your right to choose who you listen to / It's your rock 'n' roll") to the '70s roll call/skewering of "The Osmonds," Back in Denim proves once again that though Lawrence may have helped to write the '80s UK indie rulebook, he'll always place himself a little off the page to confuse the pigeonholers. Looking back at what was happening in 1992, it's obvious Back in Denim was simply an album not made for its time; one thinks it would have fit in nicely either 20 years earlier or two years later. Now it just sounds timeless.

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Fela Kuti

Expensive Shit

[MCA]

by Kern

The word rebel gets tossed around rather capriciously, especially in these days where punching a paparazzi or starting inconsequential beefs with people is all it takes to earn that badge. The ‘rebels' of today could stand to take a page from Fela Kuti's book. Expensive Shit, while only two tracks, delivers a blistering portrait of Kuti's struggles against an arrogant government set on destroying him for garnering too much favor with the poor. He delivers this message with an ultra-tight rhythm section, serpentine sax solos, and angry vocals steeped in dissent. Though his AIDS-related death in 1997 shocked and saddened a world of fans, Expensive Shit at least allows listeners a chance to feel the embodiment of the true spirit of defiance.

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The Make-Up

The Untouchable Sound

[Sea Note]

by Sonai

This album came to me when I thought I had an almost complete Make-Up collection. Drag City and Sea Note Records released The Untouchable Sound in February 2006. Recorded in 2000 at the Black Cat in D.C, The Make-Up, one of D.C.'s finest, were known for creating a sound featuring far more soul during their live shows than was evident on their studio efforts. This, their “lost” live album initially intended for release prior to the brilliant Save Yourself, is a record that kicks the rest of their work out of the water. Not only is the sound superb (yes, that's right, superb), the performance is the most intense I've ever heard. James Canty's organ playing practically gave me a musically induced orgasm, while the “Gospel Yeh-Yeh” will make you want to get the fuck up and dance. Taken as a whole, this truly is one ‘untouchable sound' for rocking out to every night of the week.

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Nirvana

The Story of Simon Simopath

[Universal]

by Papaya

Decades before Kurt Cobain came along in the early '90s and made achieving a state of enlightenment “cool,” there existed another Nirvana. This one didn't have much use for distortion, Courtney Love, or All-Star Cons, but they did manage to make one of the better baroque-psych albums of the late '60s. Simon Simopath is one of the earliest concept albums, based around a boy who wishes he could fly – in fact, if you're wondering what the album sounds like, try to imagine the music you think would fit with the lyrics “He wants to be in love, he wants to fly... he wants to be a butterfly,” from the album's opening track “Wings of Love.” You're right. It sounds a little like that. I don't mean to imply that the album is overly predictable or generic, just that... well, it was the Summer of Love, a time when it was all but impossible not to feel some degree of optimism for the state of humanity and have that hope reflected in one's music. The album's childlike nature could be considered virtue or hindrance, but regardless, the cuddly melodies and gorgeous instrumental arrangements definitely make it worth seeking out.

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Land of Ill Earthquakes

Land of Ill Earthquakes [EP]

[Self-Released]

by Jim David

Fans of Camera Obscura and The Aisler's Set would swoon for this modestly produced, seven-song EP from 2005. If only it weren't already out of print. Thankfully, a new EP is in the works for Elephant Records showcasing several of the same tracks. The band, a seven-piece “mini-orchestra” with rotating assignments, blends a number of now-familiar indie-pop elements — female vocals, lovelorn lyrics, charming horns, the odd glockenspiel solo — but the results are unquestionably fresh and engaging.

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Dead C

Eusa Kills

[Flying Nun]

by S. Kobak

Ah, to be a young record buyer again. Maybe I would've purchased this killer chunk of knowledge instead of that anarcho-punk Profane Existence LP. Minimal feedback riffs, post-modern lyrics and a post-punk sensibility for odd-sound placement might've blown my world farther apart than lyrics about the Falklands War. If I listened to “Maggot,” with it's fife-and-drum percussion, airplane fly-over guitar effects, droning guitar line and psychotic Michael Morley laughs enough times in a row, it might've saved me some money on psychedelics. A delineated exercise in songwriting like “Phantom Tower” would've opened my young, impressionistic mind to a sonic world only hinted at in “Bad Mood Rising.” Wonder what adjectives those crusties would've used to describe the song's off-beat, psychotic meltdown guitar and subdued spoken passages. Yeah, they'd call it, “shite” but, thing is, I e-bay'd all my anarcho punk long ago. I listen to a bootleg copy of this album once a day and can't even find a copy of it for under $30 on ebay. Probably 'cause the timelessness of this recorded grail speaks above cloth patches and sloganeering.

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The Emperor Machine

Aimee Tallulah Is Hypnotised

[DC]

by Charles Ubaghs

Ever see the opening credits of the Warriors? The bit with footage of the gangs heading off for their big summit, each one looking completely badass, and right in the centre of it all you have the ragtag Warriors, the toughest gang on Coney Island, preparing for their night out, looking like the most badass dudes in the whole city, all accompanied by a pounding slab of heavy duty ‘70s synths. Well, if you dig on edgy dance tunes with a Giorgio Moroder bent, then this record is basically the musical equivalent of the first four minutes of the Warriors - simply kick ass.

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RAINBOW

LONG LIVE ROCK N ROLL

[Polydor]

by Milquetoast

As you search your hearts this holiday season, probing those depths of ego to dissuade feelings of technocratic anonymity, remember to ask yourself: If Ritchie Blackmore and Axl Rose got into a slapping fight, and Ritchie put Axl into a coma, could Ronnie Dio have out-shredded Slash and saved the world from the embarrassment that is, well, everything after Appetite for Destruction? Having heard Rainbow's Long Live Rock N Roll about a thousand times this year, I can confidently answer: fuck yes. It's got everything you could wish for in a daily serving of metal: Arthurian Legend? Check. Antediluvian hallucinations? Check. Drug endorsement? Double check. A tender ballad? Thankfully, just one. Unholy guitar heroics? Chops as razor sharp as a butcher's blade. This record's a solid gold for picking up chicks that drink too much on Tuesday nights at your local Applebee's. As 21st century metal develops a more ambient and atmospheric charm it's almost shocking that the roots of the genre are in classical music and a certain vague British schoolboy foppery. What's not surprising is how bitchin' this album is and how many times I'm going to play it Christmas Eve.

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Psapp

Tiger, My Friend

[Leaf]

by Kern

With their ice cream bell atmospherics, Psapp's debut album, Tiger, My Friend, held me in its thrall like a ten-year-old boy with bomb pops in his eyes. Tiger, beneath its twee, whimsical overtones, is a twinkling trifle of unusual samples, glitchy Mouse on Mars-style electronics and bizarro cabaret vocals, which is sure to raise as many smiles as it does eyebrows.