At this very early point in the new year, it's not surprising to see a lot of reissue packages still making their way to record stores, and that is exactly what we've got for you this week. We've got your Mariah Carey ballads, your Thom Yorke remixes — we've even got an entire new series of repackaged albums from some of your favorite artists headed your way this week from the folks at Legacy.
Of course, it's also Inauguration Day. The historic swearing in of Barack Obama as our President will most likely already be underway for many of you by the time you read this. It's one of those days where a lot of you will always remember just where you were, what you were doing, and who you were with.
But for Chicagoans, today is particularly special. Perhaps that is why Chicago band Umphrey's McGee have chosen this day to release their two-years-in-the-making new album, Mantis. This is a band that has grown itself a devoted following largely through its concerts, which always feature plenty of improvisation and experimentation, and where the band often works out their new material onstage.
Here, in a change of pace, the band is offering all-new, never-before-heard material that was entirely conceived in the studio. The advance word (well at least according to our own Pico), is that this also represents what could be Umphrey's most progressive and fully realized work to date.
The Eraser, the solo album released by Radiohead's Thom Yorke a few years back, is given a re-imagining on The Eraser Rmxs. It features remixed versions of every track on the original album, all done by some of Yorke's favorite artists, and apparently with his blessing. The release was previously only available as a Japanese import.
Legacy's new From The Heart series, brings together complete albums of previously released material by artists ranging from Babyface to Miles Davis to Sinatra to Dolly Parton, presumably with some sort of romantic theme. Some of Mariah Carey's own biggest romantic hits are repackaged while she is otherwise between projects on The Ballads [US].
Josh Hathaway checks in with his thoughts on the new Tuatara in just a second. But first, NAR welcomes back contributor Tom Johnson, who is here to tell you why the new Andrew Bird reminds him of a centipede. Take it away, TJ…
I hear a good melody and I am hooked – the kind of thing that sounds like it is crawling over and through the nooks and crannies of the music as if a centipede is making its way through the busy forest undergrowth. And that's what Bird's music is – busy forest undergrowth, with a beautiful melody weaving its way through it, across it, and sometimes opposed to it. The lush background is entrancing, often based much on hymn – Bird plays violin, guitar, mandolin, and glockenspiel, (not to mention whistling), sometimes looping it all.
But the listener may just be most drawn to his vocal melody, which is that centipede I mention above, tasked not only with flexing and bending over a complex terrain, but also with the intricately verbose, multi-syllabic lyrics Bird can't help but explore in every song. It seems like odd, demanding music when described, but the results are serene and beautiful, the kind of thing that, for the right listeners, quickly becomes a favorite – and Bird seems to be finding a growing fanbase with each release.
Note: Skip the one-disc release and head straight for the deluxe, two-disc release, which features a second album of instrumental music. You won't be sorry.