Tom Waits

Record Review: Tom Waits’ Bad as Me

Tom Waits: Bad as MeTom Waits: Bad as Me (Anti-, 10/25/11)

Tom Waits: “Bad as Me”

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Tom Waits is legend, larger than life. Few musicians are as cloaked in mythology. Yet his music has always been what music should be: comforting in places, jarring in others, pushing boundaries while always honoring the legacy of American songwriting. Bad as Me, Waits’ first studio album in seven years, is all of these things, continuing the direction that he established with Closing Time in 1973 and hammered into the ground with Swordfishtrombones a decade later.

At the time, Swordfishtrombones signified a new Waits, a man unafraid to be confronted. The confidence came in large part from his marriage to Kathleen Brennan. They’re still married, and Waits credits Brennan as his support, collaborator, and muse. Here, every track was written and produced by Brennan and Waits together. Those tracks oscillate between manic and maudlin, flip-flopping throughout the entire album. Where a Depression-era blues tune ends, a ballad begins. Waits’ voice is a freight train and then a frail leaf.

That voice, of course, is a wonder. Waits can sound like a woman down on her luck, a Mississippi blues man, a possessed mule, and an army of brokenhearted ogres. Every harsh word has been employed to make sense of the ragged clatter that emerges from Waits’ throat. It’s as if his voice has always been 60 years old and his body only now caught up.

The Sound of Siam

World in Stereo: The Sound of Siam: Leftfield Luk Thung, Jazz & Molam in Thailand 1964-1975

Each week, World in Stereo examines classic and modern world music while striving for a greater appreciation of other cultures.

The Sound of SiamVarious artists: The Sound of Siam: Leftfield Luk Thung, Jazz & Molam in Thailand 1964-1975 (Soundway, 11/29/2010)

Chaweewan Dumnern: “Sao Lam Plearn”

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In characteristic Soundway Records fashion, the crate-digging UK label’s newest compilation documents a flourishing music scene that few people even knew existed.  Over the years, Soundway has released a number of afro-centric compilations filled with rare gems and obscure grooves, but its newest is an unexplored taste of Asia with The Sound of Siam: Leftfield Luk Thung, Jazz & Molam in Thailand 1964-1975.

The 19-track set is a fascinating exploration that spans North and South Thailand (known as Siam until 1939).  It’s a retrospective that reveals one of the most experimental time periods in Thailand’s music history.  Scouring the old and forgotten vinyls of Bangkok and unearthing the genres of luk thung, molam, funk, and spaced-out jazz, The Sound of Siam will surprise listeners with moving vocal performances, groovy rhythm sections, and surf-rock guitar riffs while being entirely Thai and Western chic at the same time.

Social Distortion

Social Distortion: Another State of Mind

Social Distortion‘s upcoming album, Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, finds Mike Ness and company reinventing themselves once again, trading in their signature hard-edged punk for a more lighthearted rock-‘n’-roll sound.