Back from the Trenches

On Jan 27th,  I mentioned a potential lucrative opportunity that lay just within my striking distance. While I've posted a couple pieces since, I never shared the outcome of this with my readers.   In a nutshell, I found out a few days after I made that post that I had been selected to keep my position at the higher pay rate that my contracting company negotiated for me. Then, after working with the new contracting company for a little less than 2 months, I was told that my contract was terminated, effective immediately, due to me being the highest paid person on the team. I was shell-shocked, and became deeply depressed, questioning and blaming myself for something that was out of my control. Considering that I wasn't ready to start looking for a new job,  I decided to hold off on collecting unemployment benefits. I spent my days feeling sorry for myself, and wondering how my girlfriend and I were going to pay the bills each month while I looked for a new opportunity. Then, a little over two weeks later, I received a call from my contracting agency saying that the company who let me go wanted me to come back at the same pay rate. My first inclination was to tell them to go fuck themselves, but of course, I eventually reasoned with myself that the prudent thing to do was to swallow my pride and accept their offer.

The company had been negotiating with another agency to take over managed services for our team which meant that we would soon have different supervisors, and potentially would need to interview for the position we already held. I knew this before accepting the offer to come back, but I had no idea that the transition would take place so soon. It turned out that the new company took over after I was back for one month, no interviews took place and they kept us all on pins and needles as to whether they were going to keep us or not. Our team has since been reduced to five people, and we're expected to do more work than was expected of us with a larger team.

Six months have passed since I came back to the company, and I am just now starting to feel like I can breathe again. It's been difficult to wrap my head around writing about music while my world has seemingly been crumbling around me, but a creative mind can't stay dormant forever. I have been listening to and reading a lot about music, creating mix tape playlists and mapping out blog posts in my mind, knowing that I would eventually come back here to share new discoveries with all of you. At this point, I don't know if it even fucking matters to anyone but me, but I'm going to do my best to just enjoy the ride and not expect to receive comments for everything I write. Don't get me wrong, I still very much appreciate your comments and encourage you to continue to do so. What I'm saying is that I'm no longer going to base my happiness on something that's out of my control.

With all of that said, let's get on to the music...

In one of the last posts, I mentioned several new records that I was excited to hear in their entirety. I want to revisit these releases to give my honest takes on what I thought after listening to the entire albums on several occasions:

Second Takes

Unknown Mortal Orchestra- Sex & Food

I really wanted to like this record more, and was excited by the dissonant, angular rock sound of the lead single, "American Guilt", but most of this album sounds like half-baked ideas that needed to stay in the oven longer. It's either so lo-fi that the drums sound like afterthoughts, or the production is so clean an compressed that it sounds like every other pop song on the radio. I liked a handful of these songs, with the best being "Major League Chemicals" and "Ministry of Alienation", but the majority of this record fell short of my high expectations.

Drinks- Hippo Lite

After raving about their debut record, I was hoping that this one would raise the bar even further. Unfortunately, the songs on this record don't seem to really go anywhere. There are a few short vignettes on here like "If It" and "When I Was Young" that sound like something that came straight out of an offbeat, idiosyncratic art-house film.  Most of these songs use minimal instrumentation consisting of piano, acoustic guitar and sparse drumming, which fail to hold my attention for very long.   Aside from "Corner Shops", "Ducks" and "Real Outside", there's really nothing that approaches a medium tempo. Clearly, Tim and Cate were shooting for a different vibe on this record, but I can't help but feel that they missed the mark.  While I don't expect each record to sound like the last one, it would have been nice to have one song that matched the punch and energy of the debut.

Records I'm Diggin'

Minami Deutsch- With Dim Light

 











If it wasn't for Raven Sings the Blues and Aquarium Drunkard, I wouldn't know about half the music that I listen to on a daily basis. I had already been aware of a couple bands on Guruguru Brain label, but Minami Deutsch had fallen under my radar until I discovered them on Aquarium Drunkard back in March. Since I already liked Kikagaku Moyo and Sundays & Cybele, I was excited to hear another Japanese outfit that promised to take things even further out than the aforementioned bands. Aside from the down-tempo post-rock opener "Concrete Ocean", the rest of this record is a heady, cerebral mix of krautrock, psychedelia, folk and shoegaze that stands up well next to it's fellow Guruguru Brain compatriots. 

At just six songs in 40 minutes, the tracks on here feature long instrumental passages with majestic guitar solos that can go on for a couple minutes at a time. "Tangled Yarn" sets the stage for the rest of the record with its slowly developing bass line and distant vocals that eventually explode into an extended solo that is sure to get your blood pumping. For my money, it's the one two punch of the  krautrock tracks in the middle of the record that seal the deal. On "Tunnel," the persistent drumming and guitar thrumming give way to a slightly lysergic guitar passage while the rhythm section continues to pound away behind the scenes.  "I've Seen a U.F.O." reminds me of a Can song interpreted by Wooden Shjips with caustic, electric guitar solos that evoke visions of an acid trip gone wrong. The record wraps up with a mellow to mid-tempo track with a blazing guitar solo, and a groove-based track with trance-inducing repetitive rhythms and never-ending multi-tracked guitars.

Tangled Yarn and I've Seen a U.F.O.

Hermit and the Recluse- Orpheus Vs. The Sirens














It would be no surprise to anyone who has visited Eclectic Grooves over the past few years to hear that I'm digging the latest release from the lyrical master known as Ka. Hermit and the Recluse is a collaboration between Ka and the Los Angeles producer named Animoss who has also worked with Roc Marciano and Joey Bada$$, and the production and lyrical style is a perfect match. Ka has always featured sparse production to accompany the gritty rhymes about his checkered past and his desire to forge new paths, and he rhymes with a bravado that's tempered by humility. He understands that his past doesn't define who he is now, and he strives to be a better version of himself.

Suffice to say, the lyrics are on point and the production is a satisfying mix of sweeping strings, ominous synths and assorted samples taken from film-noir and crime movies. I could go on and on about the lyrical gems on this record, but doing that would be like giving away the ending to a movie you've never seen.You owe it to yourself to sit down and listen to this record with an open mind, letting the lyrics be permanently etched on your brain.

Argo and Golden Fleece

I hope that you enjoy the music!



Comments

Jeffrey F. said…
Man thank you for the recommendations! Will you be making a Best Of 2018 list??
said…
Welcome back, my friend. Quite the employment/unemployment/employment roller coaster. Be checking back often. My sentiment about Drinks - Hippo Lite exactly.
Donald Murray said…
Welcome back, Kevin. It's disgraceful that working people can be treated like this. Someday things will be different but in the meantime I'm glad you're still able to earn a crust and keep the blog alive. No Hallowe'en mix though. Much missed. :(

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