Reunion, by Richie Monroe: Richie (AKA Li Kung Lo to those in the SCA) has been writing and performing music for pretty much his entire adult life, and he's been saying for decades that his fondest dream was to cut an album. He and Ygraine finally decided to go all the way, and build a studio in their basement so he could do so; this album is the result.
The production quality is very high. Richie has spent a lot of time and effort on that, and it shows: this is a thoroughly professional production. The music is good, although honestly mostly not my speed: Richie's 70's roots are on clear display here, and my musical taste mostly starts in the 80's. Still, there are excellent performances of a couple of favorite tunes, particularly The Queen of Faerie's Fee, which I've been fond of since he wrote it, and The Soldier's Last Song, a good SCA martial ballad. Worth checking out, especially for those whose tastes run a bit less noisy and kicky than mine (which means most people).
Everything to Everyone, by Barenaked Ladies: Hey, it's a new BNL album -- what's not to like? It's not quite as compelling as their best albums, but it's still a lot of fun from start to finish. And Another Postcard (With Chimpanzees) is one of the most irritatingly catchy tunes I've come across in some time. Definitely worth the money.
La Notte: this is a disk that was pressed into my hands by a newish member of the Barony, who told me that it was cool and might have some period dance music. Having listened to it, it *is* a lot of fun -- rather reminiscent of Wolgemut, with period tunes done in a really kicky and fun style, in this case focused on the hurde-gurdy. (Although unfortunately without anything quite danceable.) Other than that, I don't know what this disc *is*. A bit of Googling around suggests that it is probably La Notte Dei Cavalieri, which seems to have been recorded by Paul and Nivek Ash, apparently a couple of SCAdians from Ohio. Unfortunately, their website doesn't seem to be there any more, which is too bad: this is a good album, and I'd like to get more information about it. It may bear further research...
Assemblage 23 and Covenant: Also in the "pressed into my hands" category are a couple of compilation discs that were apparently put together by Farmboy, and passed on to me by napoleons_mommy. This is good modern dance electronica, and generally good stuff. If I'm distinguishing the styles properly, I'm fonder of the Assemblage 23 bits: the music is richly layered and complex, although I could wish for a bit more variety in the level. (It shares a problem common to much dance music, of not exactly having a broad range in either the musical style or amplitude.) The Covenant bits are more varied, but also a bit rough around the edges for my taste.
Future Perfect, by VNV Nation: Given to me by napoleons_mommy at the same time as the above, so I suspect it also comes from Farmboy. This is a really excellent album -- a bit less dance-focused, but complex and fascinating, holding together well *as* an album. The style reminds me oddly of good Peter Gabriel: that's partly the lead vocals (the voice is just plain similar), but there's also something in the slightly dark tone that strikes me there. I'll probably need to get a real copy of this, because I do intend to listen to it more.
Debasement Tapes and Plugged, by Tom Smith: For quite some time now, ladysprite has been telling me that I absolutely need to get to know the works of filkertom; more recently, tpau had been joining in. So when he showed up as Filk GoH at Arisia, we went to hear him, and I was hooked. This is good, classic, fun filk. So, being me, I ordered all of his albums off the Web.
His cassettes are actually his best work, IMO. Debasement Tapes has a bunch of very good filk, but isn't quite on the level of Domino Death or Who Let Him In Here?, which are start-to-finish brilliant. Plugged is fully orchestrated music, which is interesting and occasionally great, but overall doesn't quite work IMO. Only one of his prior songs -- Rocket Ride -- is at all improved by the orchestration, and that only slightly. A bit too much of the music is conspicuously synth, which just feels less rich and real than the plain guitar that he mostly uses, and only two of the songs -- Bermuda Triangle and Mand(e)la -- really work great with it. Really, the best song on the album is the a capella Falling Free, which is flat out gorgeous. (But not quite new: ladysprite introduced me to it a few months ago.)
Underwater Moonlight, by The Soft Boys: I bought this at a used record store, which had noted that this is Robyn Hitchcock's old band. I'm very fond of his work, so I gave it a try. It turns out to be a classic example of the artist as work-in-progress. It's a two-disc set: the first disc is apparently their greatest hits, and the second is their earliest tapes. The former isn't bad, and is *very* recognizable as Hitchcock, with the signature Daliesque lyrics and very slightly flat sliding vocals. The latter is interesting, if painful, mostly interesting in showing the band's evolution from dreadful garage band with potential to reasonably professional band. Still, there's nothing here that's on the same plane as Fegmania or his other later work.
Avenue Q: The Soundtrack: The first full album I've ever downloaded. This was played in the background at a party over at ladysprite's a while ago, and I was intrigued by what I heard of it, so I bought it from iTunes. It was described to me as "Sesame Street meets Rent", which is a pretty apt characterization. The songs are fun, catchy and at times savagely satirical -- the muppetesque aspect only shows up now and then, but is bizarrely funny when it does. I suspect that this is one of those soundtracks that I'm going to have memorized before I ever get around to seeing the show itself.
Yes, by Yes: This is a great example of just how good a really talented band can be when they're just starting out. Back in 1969, the band wasn't quite fully formed yet -- the style is a shade jazzier than where they would wind up (rather like early Jethro Tull in that regard), the distinctive Yes sound not completely there yet. But it's already close: both the orchestrations and Jon Anderson's voice are already unmistakeable on almost every track. It's not their best album by a long ways, but it's impressively good for a group that was just beginning to change the landscape. And it proves that they could make good music even without Roger Dean covers.