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Ernest Hood - Neighborhoods Music Album Reviews

A newly reissued private-press curio from 1974 captures the bygone sounds of daily life in Portland, Oregon, in dreamy, proto-ambient form.
In 1975, the Portland, Oregon, musician Ernest Hood pressed his lone solo album, Neighborhoods, in an edition of a few hundred. He passed out copies primarily to friends, and the album, a curious blend of found sounds and proto-ambient, disappeared into the Pacific Northwest mist. Newly reissued by Freedom to Spend (in a much improved pressing, spread across two discs), it’s not the first such rarity to be pulled from the ether in the 21st century, as YouTube’s algorithm accumulates millions of plays for once obscure jazz and new-age records. But it might be the most uncanny, an album that kindles a sensation not unlike watching home videos of your own childhood.

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that dog. - Old LP Music Album Reviews

The ’90s alt-rockers’ first new album in more than 20 years has the vibe of a beloved record that was, for whatever reason, sitting on a shelf.

In their ’90s heyday, that dog. existed in between two major pillars of alt-rock: Grungy, bemusedly annoyed rock and zingy, precisely detailed alt-pop. An L.A. band whose pedigree included music-biz royalty—lead singer and songwriter Anna Waronker is the daughter of label exec Lenny Waronker, while sisters Rachel and Petra Haden, who provided backing vocals and instrumentals, are children of jazz bassist Charlie Haden—they developed a fierce following from the periphery of alt-rock radio, which had already begun to sideline fun (and female voices) in favor of self-pity by the time the group broke up in 1997.


that dog. got back together in 2011 as a four-piece, along with drummer Tony Maxwell. Playing their songs—particularly those that they hadn’t played live before—energized Waronker, whose hiatus years included a rock opera co-written with Go-Go Charlotte Caffey, music for TV, and two solo albums, to return to the spiky, elegant mode of her onetime band.

What’s remarkable about Old LP, that dog.’s first album since their split and their first as a trio (Petra left after the reunion shows), is how little time seems to have elapsed. The harmonies still have gooey centers; the fuzzed-out guitars and precisely arranged strings still bounce off each other like highly attuned dancers. Compact and thoughtful—the band worked on the album for years—Old LP has the vibe of a beloved record that was, for whatever reason, sitting on a shelf.

The album opens with “Your Machine,” a showcase for Waronker’s plaintive vocals that crests into a full-on power-pop starburst, as distortion-heavy riffs rise up to counter her pleas for notice. “I am incomplete/Impatiently/Awaiting your receipt/And graciously/Eating crumbs thrown at my feet,” goes one lyric, a poetic echo of the “thanks for your support!” messages issued by artists in the era of online patronage. When the noise eventually recedes, allowing Waronker and the harmonies behind her to rise up, it’s a moment of pop triumph.

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From there, that dog. balance beauty and muck, with marshmallow-sweet vocals and careening strings adding tension to the breakneck chorus of “Just the Way” and the weepy violins of “Drip Drops” filling out the lyrics’ minimalistic portrayal of heartbreak. “If You Just Didn’t Do It” sounds excavated from a lost volume of DGC Rarities, with a shimmying beat and defiant, closing string flourish that offer a subtle update of ’90s alt-rock’s satisfying bite.

Like much of the best 2019 music from still-at-it ’90s alt-rockers—Juliana Hatfield, Versus, Team Dresch—Old LP works because its growth doesn’t pander to modern notions of “cool.” But the way the band re-balances the grime-vs.-grandiosity equation with each song demonstrates that when it comes to musical math, the proof matters as much as the outcome. The title track, which closes the album, isn’t just a sweet elegy to music’s power to conjure bittersweet memories. “I never wanted you to leave/I hate that there’s no choice/That I can’t hear your voice/Unless it’s on an old LP,” go the lyrics, which were written after a memorial service for Charlie Haden. It’s the first time Waronker and Rachel Haden have sung a duet on record, their voices darting in and out of each other while cymbals crash and strings swoon. Looking back, which Old LP does with gentleness and honesty, doesn’t have to be a nostalgia trap.


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