Saturday, January 17, 2009

And all the world is biscuit shaped...

Have you ever been stuck in a music rut? How did you get out?

Hey regular readers, I need a little help. I've been flipping through my record collection for the last few days and NOTHING looks good. I'm tired of all the old favorites and can't find anything different to get the music juices flowing.

Right now it's "been there done that..." I don't know about you guys, but I can only listen to a song so many times before I get bored, no matter how good the song may be.

I've gone into music ruts before, but this one seems particularly deep. I need something new to explore. I've been sorta getting into African music lately (i.e., Ali Farka Toure, King Sunny Ade, Fela Kuti), but that little foray hasn't been enough to cure my musical malaise. I've also been toying with the idea of exploring the roots of Jamaican reggae, but I'm not sure that will do the trick either (and I don't know where to start with that project, should I decide to take it on.)

So I'm looking for suggestions.

(1) How do you get out of music ruts? Does this sound familiar to you? What music has you excited right now?

(2) What new/forgotten sub-genre/style should I explore?

(3) Finally, regulars, who is your all-time favorite artist of any style that you have never seen featured here at STWOF? I'll check them out. Maybe it's a blind spot I can fill in. (The side bar on the right side of the page will give you a pretty good approximation of the "old" stuff I've already burned through.)

I'm linking to this XTC song, because it's from the only record I've heard lately that's had my ears perk up a little bit (but I can't live off nostalgia alone):

XTC - Senses Working Overtime (buy album)

And I guess I better throw in a reggae song too. Just to get some of those experts here (and maybe a few UB40 fans too):

Ray Martell - She Caught The Train (buy album)

If you've never commented here before, now's the time to step in. I need ya.


Darius said...

First of all, thank you for adding Oliver di Place to your blogroll.

If you're going to explore the roots of reggae, sooner or later, you'll have to look into Jamaican ska. There is no better place to start than with The Skatalites.

Iren said...

you're gonna have to dig deep to find them... but I think that you would dig The Jet Black Berries if you can find any of their stuff, as none of it ever really hit CD.... they were cowpunks from Up State New York, and seeing that you like 80's Jangle thing, you should check them out... Musical ruts, I mostly just keep playing stuff, keep looking, see what others are listening to..... and a lot of times I find myself going back and listening to older stuff.... sometimes it is just a matter of putting my iTunes on and letting it go randomly .... as for a genre that you might want to check out... a fave of mine has always been horror punk, there is a lot more than just The Misfits.... Look up The Coffinshakers, Ghoultown, and the Forbidden Dimension for some cool/fun stuff..... lastly looking over the stuff that you like, I would point you towards The Jolly Jumpers, a cool rootsy act from Finland..
best of luck...

godoggo said...

Well, my favorite singer is Carmen McRae. The only jazz singer you've covered to my knowledge is Billy. Like a lot of people, I started out on instrumental jazz, but there are a lot of good singers, too.

Ramone666 said...

Don´t worry, this probably happens to all of us from time to time.
Btw: for the roots of reggae (even predating ska) check the excellent mento compilation Take Me To Jamaica on the Pressure Sounds label and take it from there.

Vaughn said...

1. It's winter. Unless you ski, winter is boring and it makes bores out of us. I have a giant record collection and this still happens to me from time to time.
2. Sea Shanties, they're dirty, they're funny, they're great to get drunk and say, "Arrrrrgh" to.
3.See number 2
4. The Go-Betweens

LD said...

Yo Paul, combining two posts, I was gonna suggest that the only band curiously absent from your kickass Detroit Rock City podcast was The Dirtbombs. I know White Stripes gets the fancy headlines, but I think the D'Bombs are a *way* more interesting punk garage rock 'n' roll type thing. Check out 'Ultraglide In Black,' which is mostly covers done in an MC5-esque groovin punk rock style. Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, and P-Funk are all represented, but their cover of Phil Lynott's "Ode To A Black Man" is the dirtiest bomb of all.

Ramone666 said...

LD is right as usual, but when he says Dirtbombs, I say The Gories...

dave said...

I'm all for an exploration of early reggae - especially songs that were hits outside of reggae: the Tide is High, Red Red Wine, Angel of the Morning, etc. The 'Young, Gifted, and Black' 2-cd set is a decent starting place.

Greg said...

When this happens to me, I sort of strike back and listen to Leonard Cohen. It is cliche, but his songs give me perspective. From a 1979 tour: Field Commander Cohen.

For covers of some of his best songs with her amazing voice: Jennifer Warnes: Famous Blue Raincoat.

At least out here in Cal, spring seems on its way.

Anonymous said...

For ska and early reggae, I'd recommend any of the numerous compilations on the Heartbeat label, which is part of the Rounder family. My personal favorite underrated group from that era is the Melodians. Everyone knows "By the Rivers of Babylon," but the less well-known songs are worth checking out.

It's a bit hard for me to make suggestions, because most of my LP/CD/mp3 collection overlaps with the artists in your sidebar. But if you only know Lester Young and Benny Goodman for their big band work, you should check out their small group recordings. I especially like the early Benny Goodman trios and quartets, with Teddy Wilson, Gene Krupa and Lionel Hampton; and the '50s Lester Young sessions on Verve (especially the ones with Teddy Wilson).

And because I know you like jangly guitars, check out the Bats, from New Zealand. My apologies if you know about all this!


flasputnik said...

This happens to me frequently. My only usual way out was obscure early 20th century modern classical music, and not the dissonant kind. However, Sufjan Stevens brought me out of it the last time it happened....watching the music of "The Third Man" combined with watching Stan and Ollie do "Shine on Harvest Moon" on youtube brought me back the time before that. I know your problem very well, the root cause is that we are awash in an ocean of imitators and stagnant costume wearing revivalists. Where is the new????

Scott said...

In tandem with your reggae fixation, you should start digging into calypso music. That was one little alleyway I diverted myself down this past year. The Eloise Trio, Small Island Pride, Young Killer, the Might Sparrow... there's a great compilation out there called "Calypso Atrocities" - you can get that and a lot of other stuff on emusic.

boyhowdy said...

So much possibility, but I'm going to second Marc's suggestion: The Bats are awesome EnZed indiepop and hardly heard outside of New Zealand/AU; start with 1986 release daddy's Highway, and from there, you get to check out the rest of the Flying Nun label scene, which revolves around a particularly post-punk Christchurch and Dunedin scene. Chris Knox, Tall Dwarfs [sic], the Clean, Straitjacket Fits, and a whole host of other late eighties and early nineties music to listen to there -- much of it is still being produced. Start with the Flying Nun label wikipedia page -- I think you'll get lost from there.

muruch said...

Usually I cure ruts first by listening to an old favorite (depending on the mood, could be Nina Simone, Patti Smith or The Dresden Dolls) then trying something new - either downloading random mp3s from other blogs or browsing CDBaby by genre.

As for artist recommendations, I suggest the latest releases by Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band (hillbilly punk) and Xavier Rudd (Australian didgeridoo hard rock). They are the most interesting current artists, imho.

Paul said...

Thanks for all of your great suggestions everybody. This is why I love blogging!

Anonymous said...

As it happens, I've been going through the history of the Jamaican scene--more or less from ska to dancehall--in order to reinvigorate my collection. Also, as you may well know, there have been excellent comps of African music of late that I've been lovin' on:

Nigeria Special:


Congo 70: Rumba Rock (which you can get on iTunes, etc.)

Great site. Keep up the good work. We depend on you.


Matt.H said...

For straight up country in the vein of Guy Clark eith a touch of Dwight Yoakam I'd give Hayes Carll a spin. 'Trouble In Mind' and 'Little Rock' are two great records from a young and talented artist. Ryan Bingham's 'Mescalito' was also a great mix of 'Nebraska' type acoustic and country blues.
Micah P Hinson and the Red Light Orchestra is another album I would
highly reccomend.'We Don't Have To Be Lonesome', especially. My favourite song of 2008. I could imagine Johnny Cash doing a great version. For straight up Americana you can't go far wrong with Chris Knight's 'Heart Of Stone', James McMurty's 'Just Us Kids' or Jenny Lewis new album 'Acid Tongue' which I've been playing alot recently. Another album on constant rotation at present is the Townes, Guy Clark country folk of Jeff Kanzler's 'Black Top Road'. Another great album. The Felice Brothers conjure up a great
melting pot of a range of influences, much in the spirit of The Band. For southern rock, try the Dexateens or Howlin Rain. Elliot Brood and Woven Hand cover the darker side of country superbly, kind of like Hank Williams meets Joy Division.
Murry Hammond from the Old 97's has also recorded an album of suprising depth and quality in the vein of those Johnny Cash storytelling albums. The albums called 'I Don't Know Where I'm Going But I'm On My Way' and it's alot better than you might think. And if all else fails you can always try the tried and tested talents of Jim Lauderdale or Alejandro Escovedo's best album to date in 'Real Animal'. Hope at least one of these suggestions is of some help.

Daisy Montana said...

Listen to yodel ! I'm kidding, but that's what I write about.
But I like other things and lately i've been listening to old cumbia, to Xavier Cugat, to old Hawaiian songs, but also to Alela Diane and Mariee Sioux, and to the late Davy Graham and his raga guitar.
So that's it, I made my first comment on your blog, even if I read it since a few months. I will do this more...

Anonymous said...

Last summer when I was going through a similar slump I purchased a copy of Graham Parker's 'Howlin' Wind' which blew me away and led me to his masterpiece 'Squeezing Out The Sparks'. Both records are very soulful, but in aunique way, kind of like a turbo charged version of what the Band tried to achieve in their music. If you've already heard these albums I apologise, but even so it would be nice to see a Graham Parker track featured here one day. You've covered so much ground here but one great artist you haven't yet covered is John Stewart whose probably best remembered for the brilliant country folk of 'California Bloodlines' and 'Willard'. Great albums both, highly reccomended if you haven't heard them yet.

Anonymous said...

I want to second that emotion about the Flying Nun label bands and Hayes Carll.

Go to the Doledrums blog for All Things Flying Nun and EnZed.

Tall Dwarfs = Sustained Genius of a Very High Order


Anonymous said...

I'm a Steve Earle fan and am excited to hear about his upcoming album of TVZ covers. I like his latest a little less than earlier stuff but it was a kick to see him do "Satellite Radio" live--he just really enjoyed himself. (Seeing him do "Wild Thing"? Amazing! Just a guy and a guitar and band playing LOUD.)

Chip Taylor (writer, "Wild Thing") had a pretty good album in "The Trouble With Humans" ("Laredo" is a favorite) and I'd love to see some writing about older musicians pairing up musically with the younger generation.

My favorite song of '08 had to be Elbow's "Grounds for Divorce." I have tried some other stuff by Elbow--the wonderful cover of The The's "August and September," "One Day Like This" and "The Bones of You"--but I don't have a great feel for this band. They remind me, oddly enough, of Marillion, though I never was a big prog fan. I need "Elbow for Dummies."

We will not speak of my crush on Junior Brown. Oh, that voice! Those fingers! Saw him at a little venue two years ago and loved, loved, loved him. I also wonder what Wayne Hancock is up to these days. Ditto Matt King.

Darrell Scott is another new discovery from last year, esp. his album with Tim O'Brien. Great picking, great songwriting.

WV: rudnedbr, a too-hip-for-thou indie band out of Finland.

C. said...

you might want to check this out--classic early rap, 1979-1988. (I think the files are still up)

early rap is sort of like the early beatles--you forget how good and how fresh it could be.


Anonymous said...

if you want a quick overview of the best of jamaican music from about 1962 to about 1972, the best place to start is the trohan story box set, which, lucky for you, has been put on this site -

if that doesn't cure your malaise, i fear it is already too late.

Anonymous said...

Try New World Records...just pick any release and listen.The liner notes section of their website gives you an idea of what they offer.Also see their mission statement. Look for their LPs in any big public library.

WILLIAM T. VOGT, JR. said...

Paul, thaks for all the great posts and your support of my blog. I know what you mean about getting stuck in a musical rut. As I have mentioned before I am over the moon about Jamey Johnson's That Lonesome Song. It has to be the best new country album in a long time. As for old stuff, I have been playing The Harder They Come a lot this week and have written about it in my latest post.It fits in with some of the suggestions here. It is the best of all reggae albums in my opinion.
Cheers, Will from

Anonymous said...

how 'bout some history of irish rock planxty the black album, horslips and father ted on top of the pops you tube that. drink! Girls! Feck!

Reagan's Nurse said...

Man, you really know what questions will get a response out of music enthusiasts, eager to share. The many lists and now this . . .

About every few months I fall into a similar rut, and I often use the time to shamelessly listen to indie-pop and cool jazz classics. At times it seems the rut is actually my mind saying it wants to stop thinking about music so much, and just feel and enjoy it.

On the subway and at home I subside on Kind of Blue or a favorite Belle & Sebastian album of yesteryear. And then hopefully over time something new comes along (usually some damn, forgotten early 70s country-rock album).

But it's winter, so bring me your saddest shit and let me wallow in my blessed life.

Glenn said...

Paul, maybe it's just because I'm a bass player, but a good heap of Charles Mingus always gets me excited about music again. Not only are his tunes among the most hummable and exciting jazz I know, the spirit and feeling behind every performance is

Thanks again for the awesome blog.

Anonymous said...

I was in a music rut when my ears accidentally heard Sam Baker's Pretty World. And lo, the world was made fresh and new and full of exciting possibilities! For fans of Townes Van Zandt, John Prine, Guy Clarke and all the usual suspects.

Paul said...

Thank you everyone for all of the great suggestions. I have been exploring many of them and have found some really great stuff. That music rut is almost kicked!

One great suggestion that I got offline was Lizzy Mercier Descloux.

Matt.H said...

Thanks for turning me on to Lizzy Mercier Descloux. After downloading a couple of tracks I'm really looking forward to hearing the rest of 'Mamber Nassau'. If you're looking for something adventurous, avant garde and something that sounds like a bad idea on paper but in practice sounds amazing try Neon Neon's 'Stainless Style'. A concept album about automobile maverick John Dolerean(sounds awful i know). SFA frontman Gryf Rhyss and electro/hip hop prducer Boom Bix combine for an atmospheric
amalgamation of all those wonderful
electro, hip hop and rock sounds of the 80's that have never sounded so cool as they do here. I'd also reccomend 'Happy Nightmare Baby' by Opal which is a psychedelic indie record of uncompromising raw power and beauty. Anything by Howe Gelb is great too, I'd especially reccomend side project 'Slush' with assorted members of the likes of Calexico and Lisa Germano who combines with Gelb for the best version of 'Sand' I've heard.

Paul said...

Matt, Thanks for the additional recommendations. I like Giant Sand, but haven't listened to them in awhile.

You're right that the DeLorean concept seems pretty weird, but I'll check out Stainless Style if I can find it. Your description is intriguing.

On Lizzy, I think you would also really like Press Color, the album before Mambo Nassau.

Nicolas L said...


I guess you really should give music from 2008 a try.
I've been discovering tons of great stuff, almost none of them being the usual indie hypy groups from Brooklyn that are so praised by most of the critics.
You loved Drive-by Truckers ? Give the Hold Steady a try, and check out a young Swede called The Tallest man On Earth. He's a true folk singer, and he sounds like Dylan in '63 !!
You can hear it on my blog.
Plus some great great african music : the wonderful kora player Toumani Diabaté (I'll post about him later next week), Femi Kuti...

Matt.H said...

You're right Paul, Press Color is probably a better starting point as
it appears this was the record that made her mark as well as being a record where many ideas were expanded on for Mambo Nassau.
This is perfect listening for a music rut. Music that is unrestricted, adventurous as well as rapturously boisterous and fun.
'Fire' and 'Jim On The Move' are great tracks and I'm really enjoying both albums. Can't believe I'd never heard her music before.
By the way, looking through the vast range of suggestions on offer here really tears to shreds the narrow minded conformity often associated with country music fans(well, mainstream country anyway, but the perception often wrongly sticks). I'm sure Gram would have approved.

squirrel brain said...

When things get boring, I find it's always good to switch positions. I would suggest changing the way you listen; time of day, venue (car, kitchen, living room), speaker to headphones, decibel level.... that sort of thing.

Another tool that has been helpful to me is where you can test the waters of unknown genres and styles without knowing much. Plug in King Sunny or one of the above suggestions that you like and see what plays. As far as specifics, although I am new and irregular reader of your blog (love it!), I'll give it a try: you should and probably already do know Freakwater.

mmrules said...

Post Moby Grape - Omaha again..

Listen to some Be Bop Deluxe &
The New Up..
And,Hendrix of course.. :)

Sean Haugh said...

OK, this is kinda insane in an OCD sort of way, but since March 2007 I've been doing something I always wanted to do - listen to my entire collection in alphabetical order by artist. Started with about 4500 titles and almost 2 years in I'm a bit more than halfway through. That's how I found your blog - got to Del McCoury and thought "man! I have to get more bluegrass!" and your guest entry from last February was the first germane hit to "essential bluegrass discography" on google. Thanks for your help!

The process has caused me to rediscover old favorites and discover new ones, and also make me think a lot about *why* I like it. Which naturally leads to acquiring much more music and enjoying it more. No ruts along the way, even after a month of Johnny Cash nonstop.

A less obsessive solution would be to take a shift at the local college radio station, if you can. At a big state school like UNC next door in Chapel Hill, of course they've got enough students to fill up 168 hours a week without your help, but if you're near a smaller school with a decent station (such as Duke) they're always looking for new djs from the community. Even if you specialize on your own show, you're still introduced to a lot of folks who love all kinds of music and most likely a massive library of tunes they will be happy to rave in your ear about. I'm thinking there's got to be a similar option in or near Detroit.

I'm with Squirrel Brain on Pandora. A very nice product for expanding the borders of one's musical territory.