Steve Hammond, he of Leeches of Lore, drops a new solo recording titled Canclo on Flying Midget Records on Friday, Dec. 27. This compendium of new compositions takes a decidedly postmodern turn right out of the gate, channeling Zeppelin as The Flaming Lips on opening track “Walls of Ice” before expanding into the sludgy universe of feedback, distortion and heavy-handed drumming heard on “Wroth-O-Voll.” Ostensibly, that sort of variation would be enough for most rockers, but Hammond always takes it one step further. With each track, Hammond mixes and shreds genres with an almost mystic abandon that both celebrates and deconstructs his prog and sci-fi influences while maintaining serious metal cred. Plus, the song titles on Canclo are really cool.
Before Neil Young invented grunge, he was a singer/songwriter who hung out with the likes of David Crosby and Joni Mitchell and penned introspective tunes about alienation, aging and the failure of Southern culture; don’t worry, he still wore work boots, dirty jeans and too-large flannel shirts, he just hadn’t gotten with Marshall stacks yet. Live at the Cellar Door documents Young’s work as a solo act in 1970, when the rocanrol icon's signature sound and songwriting capabilities were still formative. It's full of acoustic gems, including a piano-accompanied version of “Cinnamon Girl” that's priceless for its rough and plaintive observations and arrangement. There are certainly gritty moments on this archival collection, especially in the wavering-between-songs dialogues Young has with his sometimes-spare audience. But that is just fine. This is an essential introduction to Neil’s roots for beginners and a welcome addition of alternate versions for fans who claim to have heard it all.
Childish Gambino is the rapping alter ego of teevee comedian and writer Donald Glover. Like much of hip-hop, Gambino’s sophomore effort, Because the Internet—as well as his moniker as Childish Gambino is simply a hipper way to say Lil Gangster—is self-referentially witty at best and shamelessly derivative at worst. Though this set of tunes tends to tip toward the former at its outset, by the end of things, Because the Internet seems to purposely cast itself as the latter, too heavily influenced by everything that came before it to be truly compelling musically or lyrically. Ludwig Goransson’s lush and technically savvy production aside, this album does little to advance the cause, though the R&B-inflected tunes available here are nominally listenable.