I had a busy week and could hardly get in a couple of listens to my newest album purchase - Mike Doughty's Golden Delicious.
You see, it's a concept album about apples... The narrator is a young German boy in 1920s New York City, and in his playtime stumbles on a magical apple tree hidden from view in a roof-top garden. It lets him hear the music of clouds, and wind, and streetlights, all of which are constantly surging with beautiful sounds heard only by him. As the boy ages, the apples grow fewer and fewer on the tree, until one day the tree itself resembles nothing more than twigs jammed into hard-packed dirt...
That would be tremendously strange. The truth is, I've hardly had two listens to the new record, as I said (don't you pay attention?). But I'm a big Doughty fan from back in the day, when the cassette most frequently thrown into the tape deck while we cruised around in the back of pickup trucks was Ruby Vroom, the absolute paragon of cool in my own personal version of 1994. Somehow, between Nirvana and Radiohead, Soul Coughing was all that really mattered.
Doughty himself described Soul Coughing as "deep slacker jazz," and in writing about the first time I saw Doughty solo, I termed his lyrics "dream-scape beat poetry," perhaps more apt for his earlier solo work, but still something I hear in the latest stuff.
Doughty has a new vision for his music; it's a more organic sound, readily identifiable as music played by a musician. Gone are the samples and drum loops that gave the punch to Soul Coughing's stranger tunes. Doughty terms the new sound and recording method "Dude Theory." It's simple: when the listener sits down with the new tunes, he or she hears five dudes playing music. There aren't any tricks pulled - the layering or overdubs are toned down. And even in the first couple listens I hear the difference. I'm still working my way through Golden Delicious, but it sounds fantastic so far. It's a sparer album than Doughty's Haughty Melodic, but it's better for its simplicity.
"Fort Hood" is the first song that really jumps out at me, with the line "you should blast Young Jeezy with your friends in a parking lot" one of Doughty's most wistful and specific. There's no doubt I'm going to continue burrowing into Golden Delicious for quite a while. And hoping Doughty sticks a Tucson show into his latest tour itinerary...
Mike Doughty - Fort Hood (live MPR 2008-02-19)
Mike Doughty - I Just Want the Girl in the Blue Dress to Keep On Dancing (live 2007-11-13)
Mike Doughty - Madeleine and Nine (live 2007-11-13)
(Get the MPR whole set, with some really interesting interview segments, here. Check out more live Doughty at archive.org.)
And if you're not following Doughty's blog, you're missing out on a damn good thing.
And if you're into dj stuff, Doughty's been doing some spinning lately. Check out his work in that realm: Dubious Luxury - Soul Power Dry Run
Lastly, props also go out to So Much Silence, who tracked down a promo album of Doughty busking in the NYC subway.
I just noticed that Doughty's cover of the Magnetic Fields' "Book of Love" is finally recorded as an official release, but it's an iTunes only bonus track. I don't really dig this new trend of digital only extras. I'm not going to re-buy the album for one track. For now, all I could find is a snippet of a live performance:
Mike Doughty - Book of Love (live, partial)