Sunday, January 31, 2016

Dec 2015 – Jan 2016 reviews

These reviews ran in December and January in the Waterloo Record and the now-defunct Guelph Mercury.

Highly recommended: Erykah Badu, Colleen, Scott Merritt

Well worth your while: Eskimeaux, Meridian Brothers

Arca – Mutant (Mute)

This Venezuelan producer was plucked from obscurity in 2013 to helm several tracks on Kanye West’s Yeezus, followed by a full-length collaboration with Bjork (Vulnicura)—both of which rank among the most experimental and audacious work either artist has done. He also worked with breakout artist FKA Twigs, whose featherweight voice softened some of his rougher sonic edges.

Here, on his second full-length, the producer flexes all his muscles and makes a brilliant—although never remotely pleasant or even welcoming—album best absorbed in isolation (or perhaps at an art gallery). He offers snippets of melody that get swept up in thunderstorms of distorted bass and sound design worthy of the freakiest avant-garde horror film you’ve never seen. These are not beats, they’re beasts. Disoriented beasts, at that. “I try not to let anything repeat for long enough that you can get used to it,” he told Pitchfork recently. That applies not just to musical phrases, but to notes themselves: nothing is allowed to sustain in the least without mutating. Wait a minute, what’s this ADD-addled album called again? Oh right… (Dec. 3)

Stream: “Sever,” “Snakes,” “Umbilical”

Ruth B – The Intro (Sony)

We can all cite people who’ve been signed to big record deals based on YouTube videos—but Vine videos? Where you only have six seconds to get anyone’s attention? Yet that’s the story of Edmonton’s Ruth B, who, based on her popularity on Vine, landed her song “Lost Boy” in the iTunes top 100 in 2015, which led to a deal with Sony. Now we have a four-song EP featuring—well, three more piano ballads that sound a lot like “Lost Boy.” The 20-year-old’s lyrics are, um, age-appropriate. But if Ruth B isn’t in a rush to show us what else she has up her sleeve, it’s because she doesn’t have to: a piano and that voice is all she really needs, especially in the age of Adele. (Jan. 28)

Stream: “2 Poor Kids,” “Lost Boy,” “Superficial Love”

Erykah Badu – But You Caint Use My Phone (Universal)

Drake’s “Hotline Bling” inspired more parodies and tributes than any other hit song in recent memory, which means which should all be sick of it by now. When Erykah Badu broke a five-year silence with this mixtape, released at the tail end of November, it could well have been just another meme in the ether. But Badu, of course, came up with something much more than that. The eccentric soul queen of the modern era shows clearly that it’s not perfectionism that’s responsible for her limited discography, because this was clearly whipped together quickly—made spontaneously in 11 days, with all her vocals done in one take—and it’s just as strong as anything else she’s ever done.

Yes, there’s an interpolation of “Hotline Bling,” retitled “Cell U Lar Device,” another track that borrows from Drake’s original sample, Timmy Thomas’s “Why Can’t We Live Together,” and there’s a rapper doing a dead-on Drake impersonation on several tracks. The rest of the mixtape continues with the phone theme—this is not Badu at her lyrical height. But musically, it’s as lush, trippy and weird as her finest work, and it’s refreshing to hear her come back and take ownership of R&B’s freak flag. (Jan. 7)

Stream: “Cell U Lar Device,” “Phone Down,” “Mr. Telephone Man”

Colleen – Captain of None (Thrill Jockey)

Cecile Schott, a.k.a. Colleen, is a French woman living in San Sebastian, Spain, with a bunch of ancient instruments she utilizes in entirely modern and mesmerizing ways. Primarily a viola player, here she picks up a treble viola da gamba, a baroque instrument normally played with a bow; she plucks it like a harp or a kora. There is also a melodica, which she uses to illustrate her latent-until-now dub reggae influence, and many instruments are run through something called a Moogerfooger delay pedal—you can’t go wrong with a tool named like that. An avalanche of distorted percussion drives “This Hammer Breaks,” which owes more to Congolese electronic kalimba band Konono No. 1 than the almost ambient, new-age aspects of her earlier work. There are many elements here that will appeal to fans of Owen Pallett or Joanna Newsom, but Colleen’s songwriting and aesthetic are entirely different—and, for that matter, fairly far removed from what even fans might expect from her. Captain of None came out in April 2015, but I didn’t even see it on any “missed it” lists at the end of the year—which is a crime, as it’s entirely enchanting and unique. (Jan. 14)

Stream: “Holding Horses,” “This Hammer Breaks,” “Soul Alphabet”

Liam Corcoran – ROM-DROM (independent)

During a decade when Canadian indie rock boasted dozens of bands releasing one classic album after another, P.E.I.’s Two Hours Traffic got slightly lost in the shuffle. By the time they split up in 2013—after releasing their masterpiece, the pure pop perfection of Foolish Blood, which boasted one killer melody after another and production worthy of a Spoon recording—great reviews and a decent cross-country fanbase didn’t pay the bills. They split amicably; guitarist Alex O’Hanlon had already started making waves in Toronto with his new project, Alvvays. Corcoran stayed close to home and started writing new material, with low expectations. This seven-song EP came out last fall; other than a diminished production aesthetic, nothing has changed in Corcoran’s world, other than a slight country tinge that suggests he might well turn into a Nick Lowe of the next generation. Corcoran calls in favours here from ex-bandmates, members of Hey Rosetta and Cuff the Duke and others to flesh out the sound. He never wrote pop songs to please other people or to carve a career out of it; as we can see here, that’s just what he does naturally, even when no one’s looking. Hopefully, however, this music made it off the Island. (Jan. 21)

Stream: “July-eh, July-oh,” “Let It Be Now,” “Catching the Stars”

Eskimeaux – O.K. (Double Double Whammy)

Two American acts in 2015 helped revive the lo-fi fuzziness of ’90s indie rock, augmenting their bedroom recordings for official coming-out parties. One was Car Seat Headrest, whose debut for Matador gathered various scrappy-sounding tracks from roughly a dozen earlier online releases; his first album with a recording budget comes out next month. The other artist was Brooklyn’s Eskimeaux, whose home demos were fleshed out for this charming debut album, one that maintains all the intimacy of a private project, but with complementary arrangements and instrumentation that no bigger budget would ever improve. Eskimeaux is Gabrielle Smith (whose bloodline includes native Alaskans, thanks for asking), who doesn’t let the soft timbre of her voice stop her from conveying strength and power, whether over ambient synths or a full rock band. On first impression, she comes off as a twee carbon copy of Julie Doiron or early Belle and Sebastian; upon close listen, however, her melodic gifts become more apparent, and she has no shortage of startling lyrics, such as, “Everything I said spewed like sparklers from my mouth.” Indeed, they do. And this debut is much more than just O.K. (Jan. 7)

Stream: “Broken Necks,” “I Admit I’m Scared,” “Pocket Full of Posies”

Meridian Brothers – Los Suicidas (Soundway)

Collectors of electronic exotica will know Jean-Jacques Perry and Gershon Kingsley, whose landmark record The In Sound From the Way Out, released in 1966, was one of the first Moog synth pop albums (predating Switched on Bach by two years). The anything-goes, screwball mood of that record influenced plenty of TV themes and radio interstitials over the years, not to mention bands like the Beastie Boys (who gave one of their EPs the same title) and Stereolab. But few artists have managed to sound as delirious and wigged-out as Perry-Kingsley at their prime, until an eccentric genius from Bogota, Colombia, named Elbis Àlvarez came along with the Meridian Brothers.

Àlvarez is a conservatory-trained rebel who loves reggaeton as much as he does György Ligeti, and whose music as the Meridian Brothers sounds like Perry-Kingsley partying to Peruvian chica and Colombian cumbia. Àlvarez pitch-bends his keyboards all around the circus-like melodies while traditional percussion rides underneath synth bass lines, creating what Àlvarez says is not surrealist pop music, but, in true South American tradition, “magical realism.” Whatever he wants to call it, it’s exactly what you want to hear in the middle of a Canadian winter that tests your sanity. Because sometimes a musical madman from the tropics is the only thing that makes sense. (Jan. 7)

Stream: “Dinamita,” “Amargura,” “Lagrima”

Scott Merritt – Of (independent)

When Scott Merritt was last in the public eye—back in the mid- to late 1980s when videos for his unique brand of art rock were played on MuchMusic—his records were crammed full of the latest technology, sometimes to a fault, distracting from his songcraft.

Scott Merritt is no longer in the public eye. The Brantford-born songwriter has been hiding out in Guelph for the last two decades, quietly raising his family, recording albums for Fred Eaglesmith and others, releasing only one album of his own in the last 26 years (2002’s The Detour Home).

So it’s a joy to suddenly discover this quiet gem, which snuck out into the world in April, on which Merritt employs little more than ukulele—and easily and instantly buries any hang-up you might have about an instrument that every hipster and cutesy pop act seems to be slinging around these days. Merritt’s magical hands extract delicacy and intricacy out of those four strings. To flesh out the sound, he relies largely on droning accordions (perhaps harmoniums?), trombone sections, clarinets alternating between only two notes, and upright bass by the incomparable Jeff Bird. For a record with no percussion and comprised largely of languid tempos, the rhythms are pulsing and surprisingly strong on a such a quiet record.

If this was merely a perfectly arranged and produced album, that would be one thing. But when a songwriter of Merritt’s calibre saves up more than a decade of sketches and brings them to fruition, we’re obviously witness to the best the man has to offer. There’s a song on here, “Meteor,” that I first heard Merritt play live more than 10 years ago—and I instantly remembered the melody and lyric vividly. Surely, I thought, I know this song from a previous album? Nope. That song stuck with me, with only one impression, for more than a decade. Always a good sign. (Dec. 3)

Stream: “Meteor,” “Bragging Rights,” “Willing Night”

Gregory Pepper and his Problems – Crush Crush Crush (Fake Four Inc.)

You can only handle being called “underrated” or “unsung” so long. Which is probably why Guelph treasure Gregory Pepper pours everything he has into 10 songs on a 7” single he released last fall, in particular a 51-second screed about overhyped peers—a song titled, ahem, “I Wonder Whose Dick You Had to Suck.” Got your attention yet? Pepper’s concision and immediacy—and irreverence—serves him well here, with maximum melody, dual guitar leads, and lean arrangements that make Weezer’s first album sound like Smashing Pumpkins. Every song here is under two minutes. Surely you can spare two minutes to—in the immortal words of Jean Chrétien—put some Pepper on your plate. (Jan. 21)

Stream: “Welcome to the Dullhouse,” “I Wonder Whose Dick You Had to Suck,” “There in the Meadow”

Savages - Adore Life (Matador)

“If you don’t love me, don’t love anybody,” is the opening line on the second album by this British band beloved by fans of early ’80s post-punk. It’s a bold claim, and interesting in the context of a new act many consider to be some kind of rock’n’roll saviour, an honour usually bestowed on a band that hearkens back to the past, something that’s been true of everyone from Bruce Springsteen in the ’70s to the White Stripes in the 2000s. Savages owe an enormous debt to Joy Division, Siouxie Sioux, early Cure and other bands of that era; they are, for better or worse, ideal to recommend to an old friend whose musical taste has been static since they first discovered those artists. Once you step outside that large shadow, however, do Savages bring anything new to the game? Do they have to? Singer Jehnny Beth possesses a powerful instrument: chilling, commanding, compelling. The band behind her has evolved into a more muscular unit since the promising debut album in 2013—not surprising, as Beth once wrote that “the music of Savages was imagined to function like armor. Four women facing the world, facing the industry, protected by their sound, indestructible.” No doubt they’re a killer live band, and none of this trivial discourse has anything to do with the band as musicians or songwriter or performers. But if they are, in fact, the most exciting new rock band of recent years, then maybe rock music doesn’t have anything new to offer at all. Maybe the most exciting band of 2026 will sound just like Beat Happening or Sebadoh. The most exciting band of 2036 will sound like Arcade Fire or the Strokes. And the most exciting band of 2046 will sound like Savages. (Jan. 21)

Stream: “Sad Person,” “Adore Life,” “T.I.W.Y.G.”

Boubacar Traore – Mbalimaou (Lusafrica)

This Malian bluesman has been making music for about 60 years; this latest release came out last January, but it’s certainly not trendy or timely and there’s never a bad time to rediscover this man’s immense talent. Produced by kora player Ballaké Sissoko and featuring Traore’s favourite harmonica player, Frenchman Vincent Bucher, Mbalimaou features more instrumentation than the hypnotic, sparse solo recordings of Traore that first caught my attention many years ago. It’s hard to imagine more sympathetic players, however; backing up a man who doesn’t need any help, they provide perfect, tiny touches. (Jan. 7)

Stream: “Hona,” “Mariama,” “Kolo Tigi”

David Bowie and Donny McCaslin

David Bowie – Blackstar (Sony)

Always leave them wanting more. David Bowie knew a thing or two about show biz, where every performer wants to leave on a high note. Well, here we are, a week since he surprised us with his best record in at least 30 years—and then departed planet Earth mere days later. (I wrote this piece for Maclean's when the news broke.)

David Bowie, dead at 69, was—we now know—well aware of his mortality when he made both this and 2013’s The Next Day. That album was a direct nod to his past, both in sound, in personnel, and even the album art (the cover recycled the image on 1977’s Heroes). Here, however, he’s made a record that sounds nothing like anything else in his discography. It’s a crowning achievement on a 50-year career that altered the course of rock and pop music more times than perhaps any other artist.

Let’s be honest, however: the last 30 years of that career yielded precious few albums, or even songs, that even his biggest fans have cared to revisit. The first day I heard Blackstar, on the other hand, I played it five times in a row.

Blackstar blows up what we know of late-period Bowie. Here we see the eternal appreciator of the avant-garde bringing his love of increasingly weird Scott Walker records to a bunch of New York jazz musicians almost half his age, led by saxophonist Donny McCaslin, most of whom are associated with trumpeter Dave Douglas’s Greenleaf label. Drummer Mark Guiliana in particular does exemplary work here; jazz fans might know him from a duet album he made with Brad Meldau on synth. They give Bowie’s fractured incantations a muscle and vigour and exploratory splendour. It’s entirely possible that the band’s performance here is better than Bowie’s own, but the aged elegance of his distinctive croon provides the perfect anchor for this material. This is the sound of David Bowie acting his age, yet no less curious and experimental than he was in the late ’60s, before the mainstream found him.

Almost all of Bowie’s peers—certainly all of his peers who ever achieved the same commercial heights he once did—play it safer and safer as they get older. Bowie has always taken risks, for better or worse. Sometimes—many times—he has failed. Here, however, he’s triumphed, creating a masterpiece that serves as a perfect epitaph. Which is exactly the way he wanted it. (Jan. 14)

Stream: “Lazarus,” “Blackstar,” “Girl Loves Me”

Donny McCaslin – Fast Future (Greenleaf)

David Bowie’s final album, Blackstar, turned out to be one of his most popular: it’s his only album to ever hit #1 on the Billboard charts. That might have happened even had it not come out the week of his death, as unanimously positive reviews poured in immediately. Before tragedy prompted deep analysis of the album’s lyrics, most people were busy marvelling at the music and asking: who the heck is the incredible band behind Bowie, and where did they come from?

Donny McCaslin is a California-born, New York City saxophonist who plays in a band led by trumpeter Dave Douglas, who runs the Greenleaf label. McCaslin’s own band features drummer Mark Guiliana (who made a strong duo album with pianist Brad Mehldau last year), keyboardist Jason Linder and bassist Tim Lefebvre, all of whom Bowie pulled into the orbit of Blackstar.

McCaslin has 10 solo albums to his name; this one, released last March, is the first time he’s carried over one group of backing musicians from one album to the next. It was obvious to Bowie why. There is chemistry here greater than the individual players, though each are virtuosos. Linder uses electronic textures and there’s an Aphex Twin cover on here, but it’s far from avant-garde; McCaslin isn’t interested in abrasion, like the wilder exploits of John Zorn or Peter Brötzmann. There are strong melodic heads anchoring each of these tunes, and the band would be just as comfortable playing prog rock as they would jazz. If anything, Blackstar is more outré than Fast Future, if only because of expectations of the given genre.  

But even if Bowie hadn’t dragged McCaslin into our orbit, a talent this big—and that refers to the whole ensemble, not just the bandleader— was bound to get our attention eventually. (Jan. 28)

Stream: “No Eyes,” “Love What is Mortal,” “54 Cymru Beats”

Or you can hear the whole album here:

2015 reissues

Apologies for the long absence. Life. 

Before we get to these reissues I reviewed in the pre-Christmas season, let’s take a moment of silence to mark the passing of the Guelph Mercury, where my column has run for the past 15 years (about one-tenth of the paper’s lifespan, as it turns out). I’ll continue to write for its sister paper, the Waterloo Record (who graciously commissioned my column in the first place, and continue to edit it).

Karin Krog – Don’t Just Sing: An Anthology 1963-1999 (Light in the Attic)

If I told you Karin Krog was the most important Norwegian jazz singer of all time, I’m going to take a wild guess and say that wouldn’t hold much water. I didn’t know anything about her either, before this 2015 anthology. But now I want to know everything.

Her story starts in the early ’60s, when she became the first Norwegian jazz artist to release a full album. She’s an alluring vocalist when she plays it straight, and attracted some of Europe’s finest players, including saxophonist Jan Garbarek and the ECM crowd, as well as Americans like Dexter Gordon and Archie Shepp. Pretty soon she started diving off the deep end, flirting with electronics and tape manipulation of her voice, and being one of the few vocalists to hang with free jazz players. It says a lot about her that the covers here are of Herbie Hancock (“Maiden Voyage”), Bobbie Joe Gentry (“Ode to Billie Joe”), John Coltrane (“A Love Supreme,” with lyrics taken from a poem in Coltrane’s liner notes) and Joni Mitchell (“All I Want”).

Representing such a large body of work—with detours into experimental soundscapes in between jazz fusion and pop covers—is not easily achieved, but compiler Pat Morgan does a masterful job of capturing all sides of Krog and sequencing it in such a way that it all makes sense somehow: from small acoustic combos to ’70s fusion to the soprano sax and DX-7 keyboards of the ’80s to tracks with just prepared piano and electronically altered voice.

Krog is alive and well: she’s 77 and still making music; her latest album was in 2013. This is hardly the end of her story, but for North American listeners, it’s a beguiling beginning. (Dec. 17)

Stream: “All I Want,” “Maiden Voyage,” “Just Holding On”

Sam Phillips – The Man Who Invented Rock’n’Roll (Yep Roc)

That title is, to put it mildly, a bold claim, especially for someone who’s not a household name—and someone who’s not a musician, whose name is not Chuck Berry, who’s not even an African-American musician. Sam Phillips’s main claim to fame is that a young, naïve Elvis Presley once walked into his Memphis studio and made his first recordings there for Sun Records, Phillips’s label. Presley soon moved on to the big leagues, but that studio and label also gave birth to Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, Rufus Thomas, and was witness to early recordings by Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King—and Ike Turner, who played piano on “Rocket 88,” recorded by Phillips in 1951 and considered the first rock’n’roll recording.

There’s even more to the Sam Phillips story than that précis, and it can all be found in Peter Guralnick’s excellent biography (I reviewed it for Maclean’s here), released in November, for which this compilation was assembled as an incredibly valuable companion. That’s even more true because the Sun Records catalogue, having been carefully guarded by the fiercely independent Phillips for years, has not always been widely available or assembled well. This comp provides an overview of Phillips’s overarching philosophy: he wanted to open his studio doors to working-class voices both black and white who didn’t have access to “proper” studios. So we hear white hillbillies, black bluesmen, R&B shouters and everything in between—in other words, the birth of rock’n’roll, captured raw—mistakes were purposely left in—and drenched in reverb.

If you’re younger than, say, 60, Elvis Presley might not mean much to you; it’s easy to see him as a larger-than-life pop icon, a symbol of excess and/or a joke. But listening to him in this early context, informed by his peers, before he was a professional entertainer, is to marvel at what a striking, electrifying and undeniably unique vocal presence he was. His success and historical importance was not a fluke of time and place; it was due to raw, natural talent (and, of course, race; it’s impossible to imagine an African-American in that time becoming as revered as Elvis). And yes, there is one track here from the legendary Million Dollar Quartet: Elvis, Jerry Lee, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins singing “I Shall Not Be Moved” around a single piano during an impromptu session that gained mythical status.

Sun Records is about more than just the big names, however, and this comp gives equal space to the likes of one-man-band Joe Hill Louis, the UFO-chasing Billy Riley, the wild harmonica of Jimmy and Walter, the gospel harmonies of the Prisonaires (actual inmates, and the focus of one of the book’s best stories), the eccentricity of Harmonica Frank, and the magnetism of Roscoe Gordon. You will never find yourself fast-forwarding to the Johnny and Jerry Lee tracks out of boredom. Guralnick’s extensive liner notes—he compiled the album himself—make extra sure of that. (Dec. 10)

Stream: Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats – “Rocket 88,” Jimmy and Walter – “Easy,” Rufus Thomas – “Tiger Man”

Them – Complete Them 1964-67 (Sony)

Van Morrison has been incredibly prolific during the more than 50 years he’s been in the public eye (he turned 70 this year). Unlike many artists whose solo careers are a pale imitation of the inspiration that first struck them when they were part of a gang of friends, Morrison’s long career has featured many intriguing twists and turns. Which means that though the average fan probably knows that he had hits even before “Brown-Eyed Girl,” it’s often forgotten that “Gloria” and “Here Comes the Night” and “Baby Please Don’t Go” are actually credited to Them, the band he joined when he was 19 years old in Belfast. Them lasted three short years, captured on this three-disc collection that compiles most everything they ever recorded: two albums, all their singles and B-sides, and some demos and radio performances.

Them is not just a historical footnote, a stepping stone to Morrison’s later triumphs. This is a group as good or better than the Rolling Stones of the same era, a blues-based garage band par excellence. Morrison is young, hungry and full of bile, snarling like Howling Wolf and pushing the recording levels into the red. The musicians behind him are excellent students of American R&B: the arrangements have genuine soul, never succumbing to the youthful (and British) temptation to steamroll over everything. They tackle blues and jazz standards (“Baby Please Don’t Go,” “Stormy Monday”) but also have the cajones to reinvent contemporary hits like James Brown’s “Out of Sight” and Ray Charles’s “I Got a Woman” and Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue.” The originals are just as strong: “Gloria,” of course, but a track like “My Lonely Sad Eyes” would be just as at home on classic Morrison solo records like Moondance or Tupelo Honey.

The disc of extras here is, as expected, for serious completists; only one track, “Mighty Like a Rose,” isn’t duplicated elsewhere in the collection. But seeing how the last Them collection has been out of print for more than 15 years, and how revelatory many of the tracks here can be even for this mild Morrison fan, this proves there is indeed gold in Them thar hills. (Dec. 17)

Stream: “I Can Only Give You Everything,” “Out of Sight,” “My Lonely Sad Eyes”

A Tribe Called Quest - People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm (Sony/BMG)

In an article titled “Hip hop is the new dad rock,” Time Out London described an event called “Fun DMC,” which is “a family hip hop party where kids aged between three and eight jump around to House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around.’ ” Certainly, the generation who grew up in the 1980s and early ’90s, a.k.a. “the golden age of hip hop” (something Vince Staples, of the class of 2015, took public issue with recently) now clings to the music of its youth just like any Baby Boomer does their CCR or Fleetwood Mac records, which are as out of step with modern rock as LL Cool J is with Kanye West.

Few hip-hop records, however, get the deluxe reissue treatment. The only surprise about this debut album by A Tribe Called Quest is that it didn’t get an overhaul before it turned 25 years old. Other than Public Enemy and the Wu-Tang Clan—both of whom continue to perform somewhat regularly—Tribe is the only hip-hop group of that era that still commands mass appeal, the only one whose rare reunion performances are considered major events.

Their second and third albums, The Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders, marked their commercial peak. But the consistency of those records also mean that they sanded off some rough and playful edges that abound here, where they throw tympani rolls and singing frogs over a beat, title a song “Pubic Enemy,” and drop sitars, the French national anthem and Lou Reed samples in the mix, while rapping about how “I don’t eat no ham and eggs coz they’re high in cholesterol!” Maybe that adventurism flew out the window once harsher copyright enforcement limited sampling (see also: Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique), but lead MC Q-Tip is more animated here than he before his smoother flow would become his trademark later on.

The added tracks here, featuring a Pharrell Williams new-wavish reworking of “Bonita Applebum” and J. Cole’s limp, jazzy take on “Can I Kick It,” do nothing to enhance the originals—but the bottom-heavy remastering is a vast improvement over that scratchy CD you have on your shelf. (Dec. 10)

Stream: "I Left My Wallet in El Segundo," "Can I Kick It," "Youthful Expression"