These Were the Earlies
Truly a band of the internet age, half of the Earlies' core quartet resides in Texas and half resides in the UK. The four hadn't all met in person until two years after releasing their first seven-inch; instead trading recordings through the mail or emailing song ideas. These Were the Earlies, originally released in 2004 by the UK's Names/679 Recordings, is a collection of the outfit's singles and first two limited-edition EPs. Considering this widely discussed backstory, it's good to report that the Earlies' music is as interesting as their history.
The band has also become known for releasing free secret downloads—gloriously orchestrated pop soundscapes that sample anything from Elliott Smith and Tom Waits to foreign-language children's songs, weaving the pieces together in a bright haze of Brit-pop and Americana. Earlies is just as broad and layered. The sound is surprisingly warm despite its tendency toward digital technique. Maybe it's due to the abundant lyrics about the course of life and humanity: "Wayward son/You've lost your head again/Think of all the words you could've said/The road's not fit for a kid who ain't ready to see it yet. It's all right to let yourself down again tonight." Add to this sweeping harmonies, all kinds of classical instrumentation, heavenly choral harmonizing, the oddly named "Chinese Puzzle Bass and Optical Keys," and we've got ourselves a soundtrack for a moonlight drive down a desolate prairie highway. GRANT BRISSEY
The Earlies perform Mon Dec 5 at Doug Fir Lounge, 830 E Burnside
SYSTEM OF A DOWN
The brilliance of Mesmerize—the first half of System of a Down's two-part opus released just six months ago—was invariably going to be a hard act to follow. Incredibly ridiculous, gut-busting, hyper-dramatic—all words I've used to describe that shamelessly indulgent monolith posing strangely as a multi-platinum radio rock hit. But it's always been those polarizing qualities that've made SOAD so downright likeable—their globe-hopping sonic experiments, their aptitude-defying ambitions, their stupid-ass lyrics, and most importantly, their seeming sense of humor through it all. Released just last week, Hypnotize is Mesmerize's less far-reaching sibling—a generally harder offering that maintains most of the likeability of its sister record, with one major exception: Hypnotize isn't funny. Not on purpose, anyway. The sonic punch lines of System's previous output always seemed to perfectly accentuate the ridiculousness of their lyrics—a sort of winking acknowledgement that they were in on the joke all along. It's a little disconcerting, then, that in spite of its largely awful lyrical content, Hypnotize hardly cracks a smile over its 40 minutes—enough to make me question just whether System ride more on the idiot savant side of brilliance than they previously let on. And while Hypnotize succeeds quite a bit more than most modern radio rock, the label stooges were wise to let this one lag behind its superior sister. ZAC PENNINGTON
Big Boi Presents... Got Purp? Vol. II
The retardedly named Got Purp? is a preview platter to Big Boi's new label, Purple Ribbon. Highlights: Sleepy Brown's killer '70s soul throwback, "Me, My Baby and My Cadillac;" Scar doing "U Got Me!!!," bouncing out simple, happy, R&B funk that's half ABC, BBD, East Coast Family, half Stevie Wonderful. Honky thug Bubba Sparxxx does "Claremont Lounge," a deadpanned track that's (probably) too cussy for radio, but runs deep, bassy, and kinda evil sounding. (Purple Ribbon's prepping Sparxxx's new longplayer as we speak.) Hitting the midpoint on Got Purp? is Goodie Mob doing "Hold On," which is anchored to basic beats by wandering, loose, gospel vocals that moan all spooky in the background and never interfere with the lead.
Best track is Janelle Monae's "Lettin' Go," a nu-soul narrative that sounds like Prince but feels like the New Kids on the Block—had they been girls, talented, and great lyric writers. (I mean that in a good way.) ADAM GNADE
Crime and Dissonance
Trying to get into excellent Italian soundtrack composer Ennio Morricone is daunting. He's recorded over 500 scores, and you have neither the time to do the research nor the money to purchase his albums willy-nilly. So where do you start? Well, Sun City Girls' Alan Bishop—courtesy of Ipecac boss Mike Patton's largesse—has made your life much easier by curating this two-disc compendium. Plucked mostly from Morricone's insanely fertile 1969-1974 era, Crime and Dissonance proves there's much more to the maestro than his revered spaghetti-western work for Sergio Leone. Consider this the best (and strangest) Morricone DJ mix you'll probably ever hear, thanks to Bishop's phenomenal scavenging prowess and ear for the bizarre.
Detached from its origins, Morricone's music makes you want to view the films he scored. They must be amazing if they inspired such idiosyncratically brilliant sounds. Either that or Morricone's scores totally overshadow the images they accompany.
Over Crime and Dissonance's 30 tracks, elements of musique concrète, jazz, psych rock, avant-garde composition, and exotica intermingle like interesting socialites at elite European soirées. The players executing these pieces must have been plied with the finest wines and hallucinogens, promised the most mind-blowing sex, and placed in Italy's most souped-up studios. There's no other explanation for the deluge of otherworldly, endlessly fascinating sounds that issue from these maestros. Simultaneously disturbing, disorienting, and suspenseful, Morricone's compositions form a unique fold in psychedelia's über-brain. DAVE SEGAL