Bob Dylan – The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11
With six CDs of music, here’s the basement’s kitchen sink, sans a few “unlistenables”. Sweetening added to 1975’s partial LP release has been stripped away and, after years of sleuthing, the cleanest sources were located. (A 2-CD set is available for the financially impaired.) In ’67, while recuperating from the “Judas!” tour, Bob and The Band kept sharp by rehearsing in Big Pink’s basement. Some of the bard’s then-new tunes were sent as publishing demos to The Byrds and others, and The Band released a few on 1968’s Music From Big Pink. Otherwise they simply revelled in making music for fun. In addition to future Dylan classics (You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere, I Shall Be Released), they jammed on many shades of blues, honky-tonk, rockabilly, calypso, 19th century drinking songs, et al. Although keyboardist Garth Hudson ran tape, they had no idea that anyone might hear the results, save for the dozen-plus demos. Read the full review on MOJO
Deerhoof – La Isla Bonita
Unlucky for some, but not for Deerhoof. The quartet’s 13th LP is a product of the band’s 20 year history together, but if you didn’t know it, you would never guess that this wasn’t a sparkling debut written by a bunch of 20-somethings with an abundance of live-wire energy. Interesting that an album which was kickstarted by the band’s impromptu decision to record a song that sounded like their own take on the Ramone’s “Pinhead” ended up being named after Madonna’s kitschy classic “La Isla Bonita” – but that’s Deerhoof (nothing will be stranger than Milk Man, their 2004 concept album based around a pied piper figure enchanting children into his “dreamland”…) “Exit Only”, the album’s high-octane “Pinhead” sound-alike, is just one taste of the bolshy, punk streak that bleeds through the whole LP. Read the full review on Line of Best Fit
Grouper – Ruins
The emotional core of the album is the four melancholy songs for piano and voice, which are complemented by two instrumentals of a similar mood. Rarely have Harris’ lyrics been so clearly audible, and rarely, if ever, has love been so plainly the focus of her songwriting. “I hear you calling and I wanna go/ Run straight into the valleys of your arms,” she sings on “Holding”, her multitracked close harmonies reminiscent of Low circa The Curtain Hits the Cast. On the devastating “Clearing”, she sings, “Every time I see you/ I have to pretend I don’t”; on “Call Across Rooms”, she has a change of heart: “I have a present to give you/ When we finally figure it out.” (“The song is on one level very plain and literal, about a letter I wrote for someone I loved and could not get along with,” she told Vogue.) Read the full review on Pitchfork.