The Hills Are Alive!

Dave DiMartino
New This Week (NEW)

Whew! Just made it back to my computer!

Like everyone else, I count on the feedback of my peers to determine my taste in music, and did I ever have a rough weekend!

Last Saturday night, I scrambled down to Amoeba Records in Hollywood to pick up whatever music I could by up-and-coming starlet Lana Del Ray, because I heard she was the next big thing! Luckily for me, I found a few pricey imports, plopped down the requisite big bucks, and strolled out of that store cockily, completely convinced that I was on the cutting edge of timeless critical taste and about to join my enlightened brethren in anointing her a goddess while there was still time!

As fate would have it, though, before I could actually break the records out of their packaging, I was captivated by a spectacular box set of 5 Godzilla DVDs that occupied me through the remainder of the weekend! They were, as you might expect, quite good!

Yet this very morning, I'd heard that young Lana had made a fool of herself on Saturday Night Live--and that her fledgling career was now over before it started!

Luckily, as her music was still in its shrinkwrap, Amoeba only an hour ago gracefully accepted the discs back and allowed me to purchase the Rodan and Mothra DVDs I now quite naturally craved--and all is right with the world!

Still, though, I wonder...what the heck does she sound like?

And whose records should I buy next?

The Sound: Jeopardy, From the Lion's Mouth (both 1972)  I generally make a point of starting every blog post with the album that I think stands the best chance of rising to the top of our glorious pop charts, but let's face the facts: What a terrible week! So why not begin with the two best albums seeing release, even though, technically speaking, they are re-releases--and that's the remastered versions of the first two albums by England's glorious Sound, a fantastic early '80s group whose work here easily rivals that of the band's then-contemporaries U2 and Echo & the Bunnymen, but ultimately sold for squat and made nary an impression upon the US marketplace at all! Intense, melodic, strangely reminiscent of an odd British mutation of the Doors and Iggy Pop, the albums--showcasing the work of the brilliant, now sadly departed singer/songwriter Adrian Borland--are a stark reminder that the history of pop music, as written and received by the masses, is very often wrong and should be read/interpreted with a very large, white grain of salt! On a scale of 1 to 10, these albums are both 10 and represent some of the finest pop music of the era, and you should go out of your way to find them. Intense, gloomy, rhythmic and thoroughly spectacular--and once again, out there waiting to be purchased and loved! Buy them both today!

Leona Lewis: Hurt: The EP (Syco Music/RCA)  It's hard not to be overwhelmed by Brit singer Leona Lewis! She's quite attractive--and, frankly, looking good is what it's all about these days--yet she's wisely chosen to use a photograph of an actual mannequin on her new record! And doesn't that hand look real? In many ways reminiscent of Miss Toni Fisher's '60s smash "The Big Hurt," but not quite as large, this fabulous disc features three well-known cover songs and is distinctly different from her other simultaneously released projects, Hurt: The LP, Hurt: The DVD, Hurt: The Electric Automobile, and Hurt: The Thing They Write Down On A Clipboard When You Go To See A Doctor for Reasons Difficult To Fully Convey! Between you and me, I like them all--but this is the cheapest item of the entire series! Plus, any cover of the Goo Goo Dolls' "Iris" will automatically be top-notch! What a song! And what a babe!

The Big Pink: Future This (4AD)  In a stunning twist, this new album--the second by UK dudes Big Pink--is brand new, fully contemporary, quite good, loaded with catchy tunes, and the sort of thing today's youngsters should be listening to in order to bolster their status as thinking, feelings beings! Sophisticated, hip enough to tastefully sample Laurie Anderson without making the sensitive among us wretch, the Big Pink systematically offer up challenging music that is rewarding and significantly better than most of the albums currently offered for sale today at Costco and Best Buy! I think Amazon reviewer Paul Allaer of Cincinnati recently said it best with his concise yet cogent summary: "In all, this is quite the album." Dude, I simply have to quote you! Sadly, Amazon frowns upon italics!

Ani DiFranco: Which Side Are You On? (Righteous Babe)   Not to share too much about my frisky personal life, but I've spent the last 2-3 years breaking CDs out of their wrapping and ripping them on my horrifyingly large collection of home computers, all with the intended goal of being able to sit on my couch, sip delightful drinks, and hear everything I want to with the mere press of a button! And when I see Ani DiFranco's name, I think: Wow, I must have unwrapped about 10 of these babies without actually listening to a single one! Wonder if they're any good? Sadly, after ripping this one, I had a hankering to watch my Mysterians DVD instead! But I'm betting it's at least as good as the last 10! I understand she was on the cover of Spin once!

Frank Sinatra: The Concert Sinatra (Concord)  In many ways his era's 50 Cent, Mr. Sinatra is captured here in a zesty orchestral setting, circa 1963, singing a batch of show tunes such as "Bewitched," "My Heart Stood Still," "You'll Never Walk Alone," and perennial classic "Ol' Man River," all to the marvelous accompaniment of Nelson Riddle's orchestral arrangements--and as these things go, it's all quite transfixing! Only last night, I drove my car up near the Hollywood sign, played his captivating version of "This Nearly Was Mine," and--to be blunt--shivered as the tears rolled down my face! That I had accidentally lost my car keys was only incidental!

Bombay Bicycle Club: A Different Kind Of Fix (Island)  I don't want to imply here that things have gone downhill tastewise since fab bands like the Buzzcocks issued albums with titles like A Different Kind Of Tension, but hey, whatever the market will bear! Still, this stuff sound just fine to me! Apparently 1) not from Bombay, 2) humans and not bicycles, and 3) a "gang" rather than a club, these talented dudes are still often confused with a similarly named restaurant--certainly a problem I too have faced--but in the end, their raw talent, smashing good looks, and compelling logo potential should take them to the top of the charts! Similarly, poor people should be able to buy themselves lunch without losing their dignity! I'm tired of dreaming of a better world!

Various Artists: Music From & Inspired By Pan Am (Verve)  Though I confess I've never managed to see the show--if it's still on, and I don't think it is, at least for long--I am quite enthused by the collection of standards assembled here, all evocative of the show's early '60s timeframe, and most of them sung by the likes of Peggy Lee, Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Ella Fitzgerald, Connie Francis, and current jazz greats Grace Potter & Nikki Jean! A tasteful set including "Fly Me To The Moon," "Call Me Irresponsible," "The Best Is Yet To Come," most of which--guys, can I be candid?--work especially well when it's nearing midnight and you've put on your smoking jacket and ascot and are humming them to your female companion of choice! Oddly, since CDs weren't invented back in the '60s, this entire venture is implausible! As we all are!

Steve Aoki: Wonderland (Ultra)  Likened to "a force of nature" in his bio--other forces of nature include hurricanes, tornadoes, mudslides and, I don't know, gravity--hip LA DJ Steve Aoki has been around making and mixing tremendous house tracks for years now, apparently to great financial advantage, and he returns here with a star-studded cast including Weezer's Rivers Cuomo, Lil Jon & Chiddy Bang, Kid Cudi & Travis Barker, LMFAO & Nervo, and, stunningly, Betelgeuse, Cygnus and Antares! As one might imagine, the latter three's immense gravitational pull have destroyed Aoki and a significant portion on Los Angeles, but--since Wikipedia's down as I write this--I'm not sure how things worked out! But this record? A keeper!

John Dankworth: The Zodiac Variations/$1,000,000 Collection (Vocalion UK import)  Two really compelling Brit jazz records released by bandleader John Dankworth in the mid-'60s again see the light of day thanks to the fabulous Vocalion label; the first is populated by US jazz greats like Lucky Thompson, Zoot Sims and Clark Terry, the second by a cast of distinguished British players, and each of them--in their accessible, spritely way--could not sound more compelling or uplifting at this very moment. This is the sort of thing one has to seek out on Amazon, which in fact I did, rather than go out and mingle with actual people, who occasionally can smell odd or ask embarrassing questions! Ever notice?

Cate Le Bon: Cyrk (The Control Group)  Great record, but really--if I have to read another artist's bio opening with the line "Disheartened by the constant stream of dead animals she found herself burying in her parents farm in Penboyr, West Wales," I'm getting back into Christian rock!

Follow me on Twitter.