Beirut Gulag Orkestar (Ba Da Bing!)
Imagine walking into an old, abandoned carnival. The dilapidated booths, now-dreary colors and a sign that's still oddly welcoming despite being ivy-covered and barely standing. Then, from behind the once brilliant façade, comes a parade of carnies with ukuleles, organs, trumpets and drums led by their ringleader singing in a striking tone. After overcoming the shock of finding them amidst the fallen amusement park, you join the parade—half dancing, half dreaming and fully enchanted by the music. The nearly abandoned carnival is Gulag Orkestar—the parade is Beirut.
Chad VanGaalen Skelliconnection (Sub Pop Records)
Music identified as "pop" can quickly become the object of my pure disdain and immediate dismissal. This is my prejudice. Good thing I didn't notice the "pop" genre label attached to Chad VanGaalen's new album Skelliconnection. The album has helped me rethink my gut reaction to deny precious ear-time to pop music. It's gritty, soft, driven, synth-friendly and, most importantly, not the shallow, pigeonholed music my bias-filled brain has associated with pop music. “Red Hot Drops” would make the perfect soundtrack to a rainy afternoon enjoyed on the patio of a funky neighborhood deli. Hmm, so that's what pop is.
Cale Parks Illuminated Manuscript (Polyvinyl Record Co.)
Open any issue of Dwell magazine and you'll find images of designer lighting fixtures and the most sleek and modern faucets known to man. If the ad for the stainless-steel showerhead on page 12 came with audio, "Last Show" would accompany its flawless, simple design. The ottoman on page 25 might feature "I Am the Arm," and the sharp-lined apartment on page 11 would surely be playing "Fearsome Opponent" or "This Garden is a Maze." Illuminated Manuscript is as mod as a green-built summer home in London. Spin it at your next cocktail party, where the topic of conversation will include color schemes.