C. TV. – “Casablanca” (1983)

I hadn’t heard of the Icelandic band C. TV. prior to Ingvar pulling a copy Casablanca off the wall at Lucky Records and telling me I should listen to it. It only took about 10 seconds at the listening station to sell me on it.

I still pretty much don’t know anything at all about C. TV. I couldn’t find much online, though it looks like two of the band members were also in the new wave band Box that put out a couple of albums in 1981-82. As Casablanca dates from 1983, it appears that C. TV. was a post-Box project, though as near as I can tell one that only resulted in a single album. Vocally Casablanca has a very Warsaw/Joy Division post-punk sound to it, moody and half spoken, half sung, almost as if the record is supposed to be played on 45 rpm instead of 33 1/3 (it isn’t, I checked). Musically it varies a bit more, from sticking to the post-punk sound (“The Life Dance”) to taking on elements of synth pop (“Casablanca”) to some funky-ass bass lines (“Come Back,” which lifts its bass line directly from Henry Mancini’s Peter Gunn theme before later picking up with the James Bond theme). Sigurður Sævarsson’s voice is what holds the whole thing together, giving the musically disparate songs a sense of continuity.

Casablanca is an intriguing record, one that incorporates strong elements of very specific genres without neatly falling into any of them. The vocals are all in English, making it much more approachable for non-Icelanders, and it’s definitely good enough to be worth your time to check out if you can track down a copy.

James Taylor – “Greatest Hits” (1976)

What am I going to tell you about James Taylor that you don’t already know? Nothing at all, most likely. He’s pretty much the definition of a singer-songwriter with his style of folk rock, the minimal arrangements that showcase the emotion in his voice. He’s sold over 100 million records (let that sink in for a minute…), and this particular record, his 1976 Greatest Hits is certified diamond in the US, having sold 12 million copies. Hell, not only is he still putting out music, but his 2015 release Before This World finally gave him his very first #1 album after having put 10 of them into the Top 10 over the years.

The reason is, of course, because he’s stupid talented. Yes, his style of music is easy to stick up your nose at in this day and age as quaint or boring or whatever. But he continues to resonate with people, and that’s not an accident. I’m not any kind of James Taylor fan – I’ve never owned one of his studio albums. But guess what? I know all 12 songs on Greatest Hits. Every single one. He’s the kind of performer that easily reaches across generations. Sure, his style is “old,” but listeners can connect with and relate to what he sings about and the emotion he conveys with both his music and vocals. Others have surely put out powerful minimal folk rock like this – Nick Drake certainly sticks out in my mind, but no one has done it as consistently well for as long

This version of Greatest Hits is fairly recent – a nice gatefold and some good looking blue translucent vinyl. The sound quality of the recording is excellent – other than one loud pop at one point, there wasn’t a hint of noise, so if you’re interested in reliving your memories of AM radio in your parents’ car, it’s a fun trip down memory lane.

Daisy Hill Puppy Farm – “Spraycan” (1989)

It was a bit odd that I came across copies of both of the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm records (at least the two I know about…) at roughly the same time, but from totally different sources. I got their Daisy Hill Puppy Farm 7″ off of eBay back in October, then this copy of their four-song Spraycan EP (1989) over at Lucky Records during Airwaves a few weeks later.

The song “17” was first released on the Snarl II compilation back in 1987, but I think the other three tracks are unique to this record. I feel like the songs here are a bit more grungy sounding than what was on their earlier 7″, but the overwhelming influences are still lo-fi and psych, with repetitive elements and walls of sound that can put you into a serious trance-like groove, maybe a bit like the Death Cult or a less bluesy version of Gun Club. I think it’s a pretty damn solid record, and it’s definitely worth picking up if you find a copy.

Chicago – “Chicago 17” (1984)

The first time I’d ever hear of the band Chicago was when their 1984 LP Chicago 17 came out. It included a number of hit singles, though the one I remember the most was “Stay the Night,” almost entirely due to the video, which was in constant rotation on MTV at the time. That being said, I couldn’t remember a thing about it, so I tracked it down on YouTube… wow, yeah, that’s the 1980s in a nutshell.

I’m not sure what’s stranger – that I hadn’t heard of Chicago prior to this, given that they’d put out roughly 16 previous albums (Chicago conveniently numbers their albums sequentially… though a few numbers do seem to be skipped), or that I frankly haven’t heard about them at all since even though they continue to put out new records, most recently Chicago XXXVI in 2014. You have to hand it to these guys – they’ve been prolific and successful over the years with five #1 albums, and they’re even getting inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016.

This was the second time I’d played this album since getting it a few weeks ago, and when Holly walked into the room she said, “Last time you played this, I had these songs stuck in my head for a week.” She’s right – though Chicago 17 is more than a bit dated, a good pop song is still a good pop song, which is why bands like Chicago and REO Speedwagon and Journey can still tour today. I can’t personally compare Chicago 17 to the rest of the band’s extensive catalog, but if the rest of their records are as catchy as this one I might never get them out of my head.

Press Charges – “Press Charges” (2014)

I couldn’t find a ton of info online about Press Charges. It appears that it/they are from Ireland and are related to Sunken Foal… but honestly I couldn’t unravel it very quickly and just kind of gave up so I could groove out to the tunes. The dozen-song double LP came out last December (2014) and is described on the label website as “Vintage synths and analogue drum machines backing sampled soul acapellas. Subverted harmonies, dancing arpeggios and laid back snapping rhythms underpinning some cautious pads and echoing vocals.” That seems to cover the bases – there’s a heavy soul undercurrent here, both musically and in the vocal sampling.

“Really, Really Real” is a brilliantly amazing EDM treatment of Smokey Robinson’s “Being With You” and is worth the price of the album on it’s own, and they go back to the Smokey Robinson well with their sampling of “Really Got a Hold On Me” on “Tighter” too. Wait a minute… are these all Smokey Robinson song??? I’m not an expert on his catalog by any means, but honestly this might be an entire (double) album of EDM Smokey Robinson remixes. Huh. Didn’t see that coming. Pretty cool though.

I picked this up at, of all places, Lucky Records in Reykjavik. It’s an interesting thing about my favorite record shop – Gestur gives me most of the really great rock and metal recommendations, while Ingvar comes up with the fantastic pop, reggae, and electronic music (which makes sense I suppose given that he’s also a DJ…). Press Charges was an Ingavr recommendation, and an excellent one at that (takk Ingvar!). But don’t take my word for it – check this sucker out for free HERE, and if you like it order yourself a copy.