Thursday, August 20, 2020

New Band Discovery - The Woolen Men

Portland, Oregon's The Woolen Men aren't a new band, but they are new to me. I guess their earliest recordings date back to 2009. Quite a few of The Woolen Men's albums, tracks and EPs are on Spotify, which is where I found them. Or rather Spotify's algorithm brought them to me.

Woolen Men. Photo taken ??? by ???

(I'm temporarily stumped as to how to add a caption to the above photo, but even if I could figure that out I still couldn't do it properly because this is just some random photo from 2015 or earlier that I found online. I don't know who took it but you can tell it's an older picture because it's back when beer was cool.)

The Woolen Men are a rock trio - guitar, bass, drums. I could use terms like post-punk, college rock, jangle pop(?), stripped-down, and DIY. Someone hipper than me could probably name drop some obscure record shop guy influences or similar sounding present-day bands. The ones that come to mind for me are earlier trios with the same instrumentation - The Police, Meat Puppets, The Minutemen. More recently maybe Hammer No More the Fingers.

Sometimes there is no The in the band name. Sometimes it's just Woolen Men. 

My favorite Woolen Album might be Human To Human, although clocking in at less than 25 minutes it's more like a long EP perhaps. Their 2018 album Post is equally good, if not better upon repeat listening. In fact, I like everything I've heard by this band!

Of course I wasn't satisfied with just liking The Woolen Men. I had to check out the Fans also like section of Spotify and do similar research on Bandcamp and AllMusic in an effort to find more bands of this ilk - past or present. Unfortunately that search didn't turn up much, although it did turn me on to some weirdo groups like Mope Grooves and Lithics. My inability to find other bands in this style and at this level is a confirmation of how good these Woolen Men are. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Finished Harry Bosch Book Series - Now What?

Last month I finished reading all of the currently published Harry Bosch novels by Michael Connelly. It was a great stretch of 22 consecutive books including the two latest ones where Bosch co-headlines with new character Renée Ballard. Once I was about 5 or 6 books in I knew that Bosch books were pretty much all I was going to be reading until I had finished them. Now that it's done I'm wondering what's next?

I tried a couple obvious choices before landing on something I could really enjoy. Naturally I first gravitated to Robert Crais, whose Elvis Cole / Joe Pike series is one of the most commonly recommended for Bosch readers. It's also set in Los Angels and there are 18 or so books in the series, but I found Crais' writing style to be too glib or flippant for my taste. I just can't see myself digging into this series in a satisfying manner.

Next I tried a couple Harry Hole books by Norwegian writer Jo Nesbø. (Note: For the pronunciation of Hole, think of the Hawaiian word "hula"). This series wasn't quite to my liking either. Too many filler tangents and awkwardly forced scenes presumably there to serve the plot. I found myself asking why do I care? This has kind of put me off of the whole Nordic Noir thing, although there are surely some other Scandinavian mystery authors that I should check out.

Fortunately, I then happened upon the Aaron Gunner series by Gar Anthony Haywood
. I'm on the third book of the seven and will definitely go through the remainder over the coming weeks. This series is not very well known so you don't see it recommended a whole lot as something to fill that Michael Connelly (Bosch) jones. Comparisons to Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer series are more common. 

Haywood's character Aaron Gunner is African-American private detective and the series takes place primarily in the black neighborhoods of South-Central Los Angeles, beginning in the late 1980's and continuing before and after the 1992 LA riots. After an almost twenty year drought, book number 7 in this series Good Man Gone Bad was published in 2019. Hopefully there will be more books in this series.

Speaking of Ross Macdonald and his Lew Archer series, it might be time to check out some classic crime writers such as Ross Macdonald or Ed McBain and possibly Elmore Leonard. I have books picked out by each of these authors, all from the 1970's as a matter of fact. More on that later.