I’ll be hosting this week’s installment of WZBC’s Test Pattern, focusing on one of my favorite bands of all time: The Blake Babies.

Please tune in Friday, May 1, from 6 to 7pm.

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Been listening to the excellent new record by Camera Obscura all week.

James was right when he said this morning that overall, “My Maudlin Career” doesn’t sound too different from the last Camera Obscura album, “Let’s Get Out of this Country” from 2006. Nor does it sound too different from the one (“Underachievers Please Try Harder” 2003) that came before that or the one that came before that (“Biggest Bluest Hi Fi” 2001). But, somehow, each of these lps sounds better than the one that came before.

What I mean is that the songwriting gets stronger; the arrangements become more varied, complex, and interesting; and, of course, Tracyanne Campbell’s vocals just get more and more sublimely awesome. On the new album, “French Navy,” “The Sweetest Thing,” and the title track swing effortlessly, and “Careless Love” basically stands on par with everything on “Dusty in Memphis” save perhaps for “Just a Little Lovin'” and “Breakfast in Bed.”

Proof, in other words, that there’s a lot to be said for picking out one thing to do, doing it good, then doing it better, then doing it great.

There’s an artist named Carolee whose work I really like. Though recording now in New Jersey/Philadelphia, the sound will take you back to Boston circa 1991. And hey – my view is that’s a good thing! Check out a new track, “Water the Rocks,” on her Myspace page, and I think you’ll agree.

My thanks go to Andrea, host of “Audible Fist Pumps” on WZBC (Mondays 1-3pm), for introducing me this week to some of the awesomely great music released by the Whitehaus Family Record in Jamaica Plain.

Everything I’ve heard on these cds so far is just fantastic, but maybe what I’d suggest is that a good place to start is with the Whitehaus Family Sampler Vol. 2. The range of styles on exhibit is incredibly diverse, ranging from the old-timey “Decomposition Song” by Woodrow Wilson, to the folk-gospel of Avi Jacob’s “Take Me Home,” to the wonderful poetry readings by Brian S. Ellis (“Shopping Carts”) and Casey Rocheteau (“Beings of Sound”), to the dance-oriented experimentation of Many Mansion’s “Big White House” and my absolute favorite “Heavy Forestation” by Truman Peyote.

But, what brings all this stuff together is the care, skill, and craft that’s so clearly apparent in each piece of work. That makes you feel like each of these songs is something unique, to be cherished, treasured and — guess what? — shared. Kind of like those soccer goals from the “Shopping Cart” poem.

Listened to three excellent new cds this week: Metric’s “Fantasies,” the Junior Boys’ “Begone Dull Care,” and Fever Ray’s self-titled.

Once you take into account the fact that Fever Ray is basically Karin Dreijer Andersson, one half of the brother-sister team that makes up The Knife, all three of these albums sound pretty much exactly like you’d think they should. But since all three of these bands rank among my favorites, I’d call that a pretty good thing.

With Metric and the Junior Boys, none of the tracks really reached out to grab me the way that, say, Metric’s “Too Little Too Late” or “Poster of a Girl” off of 2005’s “Live it Out” or the Junior Boys’ “Count Souvenirs” off of 2006’s “So This is Goodbye” did and still do. On the other hand, both “Fantasies” and “Begone” are markedly more consistent than their predecessors. Maybe this is to be expected given the dates just mentioned – it’s been three years since the last Junior Boys’ album and four years in the case of Metric – but there’s really no filler or throw-aways to be found on either of these new cds, which are strong from start to finish.

Kind of neat and funny, too, how the Junior Boys’ album cover uses the French translation “Les Garcons de Premiere.” Couldn’t help but smile when I saw that, thinking that Bryan Ferry would approve.

Fever Ray is a somewhat different story. The Knife’s “Silent Shout” from 2006 was a record that really grew on me; the more I’ve listened over the years, the more I grown to like it. But “Fever Ray” is even better. Somehow, the songs manage to be slower and quieter yet at the same time more focused and intense than those on “Silent Shout.” And like this other reviewer, I found it striking that listening to the album puts one in a meditative mood even though most of the tracks seem to reflect the troubling uncertainty of our times. A moving and powerful, yet thoroughly enjoyable, lp; highly recommended.

Shrag – Shrag

April 7, 2009

shragMy favorite album as of now is the self-titled one by the Brighton (UK) band Shrag. Shrag are kind of like the Buzzcocks, only with three girls and two guys instead of all guys. Maybe that makes them kind of like the Buzzocks with some B-52s thrown in, though there were only two girls in the B-52s if memory serves me right.  Yet three, I’d say, is one better than two.

But Shrag’s sound is more like the Buzzcock’s, and also like the Buzzcock’s, their songs often speak compellingly about various aspects of day-to-day life as it’s lived by ordinary people like you and me – not revolutionaries or anything but just people who pretty much resent getting dragged down by the unending crap and incessant bs of day-to-day living. If you know what I mean.

According to this Pitchfork review, many of the tracks on this cd were previously released as singles, so again that brings back memories of “Singles Going Steady;” it’s a strong album through and through. And, by the way, there’s one track called “Mark E. Smith” as well as my own favorite, called “Forty Five 45s” which is totally totally awesome, and which was the Pitchfork guy’s favorite also, but what can I say – he’s right. And which can be listened to from the band’s Myspace page. Go do that, and try to tell me you don’t love it too.

My favorite track from my favorite local album of 2008!