Monthly Archives: June 2008

Reckless Kelly – Bulletproof

January 01, 1970

(Yep Roc)


Rarely has the line between so-called alternative country
and so-called mainstream country been so, well, so-called. On their fifth
studio full-length, Reckless Kelly show the kind of songwriting chops and
musical tightness that should have the likes of Keith Urban lining up at their
door to cover these songs, especially the rocking “Ragged as the Road” and
“Love in Her Eyes.” And while the cutting “American Blood” — an unsentimental
and sympathetic tale of a vet whose experiences in Iraq lead him to cuss “God
bless America, but God damn Uncle Sam” — ain’t likely to ingratiate the band to
Nashville, everything else here should. Of course, it’s that edge and commitment
to ideals rather than formula that means it probably won’t.


Standout Tracks: “Love In Her Eyes,” “American Blood” ERIC SCHUMACHER-RASMUSSEN

Jet Age – What Did You Do During The War, Daddy?

January 01, 1970

(Sonic Boomerang)


On the second Jet Age release, former Hurricane Lamps
frontman Eric Tischler stays true to his Who Down Under ethic with a set of
quiet/loud mondo distorto jangly indie garage pop songs. Beyond reinforcing his
longstanding Pete Townshend-channels-Martin Phillipps sonic philosophy,
Tischler uses Daddy? to conceptually
examine the desperation of a voting minority that understands the savant coup
which has swept America
and envisions an American suicide bomber who destroys himself to save his
family. Without endorsing such a course, Tischler tells the cautionary tale
with a vulnerable and trebly passion, from the Mitch Easter/Keith Richards pop
of “If I Had You Then, I’d Still Want You Now” to the Who/Chills demo rush of
“O, Calendar” to the spritely darkness of “Shake.” Tischler poses controversial
questions on Daddy? while
simultaneously turning out a compellingly stripped down and satisfying indie
rock record.


Standout Tracks: “O, Calendar,” “If I Had You Then, I’d Still Want You Now” BRIAN BAKER

Various Artists – Life Beyond Mars: Bowie Covered

January 01, 1970




Maybe the tribute record isn’t your scene. Doesn’t
matter if you’re a Bowie fan; there have been very few efforts released in the
United States anyway; even fewer with artists of substance other than Crash Course for the Ravers (Magnetic
Fields) and Contamination (Dresden
Dolls). That’s part of why Life Beyond
is such a lovely relief, what with house music maven Carl Craig rocking
out to “Looking for Water” and symphonic micro-technocrat Mathew Dear blipping
through “Sound & Vision” leading the line up. The other part of why Mars is a charmer is that, well, it’s an
alarmingly charming record influenced by the most fascinating aspect of the Bowie catalog — the
electronic one. That doesn’t mean that all songs here come from his
electro-trilogy (though tracks like Richard Walters’ clicking “Be My Wife” is).
But the best, like the softly curling “Oh! You Pretty Things” by Au Revoir
Simone, have been simmered in the gravy of Bowie’s juiciest sound. Such a sweet thing,
sweet thing.


Standout Tracks: “Looking
for Water” (Carl Craig’s Zoos of Berlin), “Golden Years” (Susumu Yokota) A.D.

Scott Kempner – Saving Grace

January 01, 1970





 From a founding member of the Dictators and
the Del-Lords, you’d expect a pretty kick-ass record but that’s not what you
get on Kempner’s second solo album. After recovering from romantic problems and
health problems, he crafts music that’s more mature, thoughtful and low-key
than any of his previous work with some help from his friends in the Del-Lords
and Smithereens and, ahem, a gentleman named Dion. Once you get over the short
supply of  “flat-out rock” (as he calls
it), Saving Grace reveals itself to
be a nice survey of roots music, featuring a plaintive, moving ballad
(“Love Out of Time”), ZZ Top boogie (“Stolen Kisses”),
dirty blues (“Passion Red”), Buddy Holly rockabilly (“Here Comes
My Love”), a sentimental slow dance song (“Shadows of Love”) and
even a few genuine rockers (“The Secret Everybody Knows”). While it’s
not earth-shaking, Kempner comes across as a world-weary rocker (think Jesse
Malin) that’s impossible not to like.


“Love Out of Time,” “Stolen Kisses” JASON GROSS

Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid

January 01, 1970




musicians who know how to make a grown man openly weep, the UK’s Elbow
continue their sonic charms with the release of their fourth album. Sheer
poetry on the page, singer/songwriter Guy Garvey’s lyrics artfully address
common topics such as love and relationships, and unlike 2005s Leaders of the Free World, he is no
longer lamenting. Opening track “Starlings” greets listeners with quiet cymbals,
soft background vocals and trickling keyboards when it suddenly explodes with
horns for five seconds, making the otherwise somber track come alive, quite
similar to the lyrics. Garvey vocalizes his new found love as he gracefully
sings, “The violets explode inside me when I meet your eyes/Then I’m spinning
and I’m diving like a cloud of starlings.” Beauty graces Elbow’s new release
from the first track to last and will not disappoint the most avid Elbow fan or
a newcomer.


Standout tracks: “The Bones of You,” “Mirrorball” APRIL S.

T Bone Burnett – Tooth Of Crime

January 01, 1970




T Bone Burnett is best known as producer,
curator, and sideman extraordinaire, the guiding hand behind the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack and,
most recently, the Robert Plant/Alison Krauss Raising Sand album and tour. As a solo artist in his own right,
he’s a pretty damned good producer, curator, and sideman, working best just
outside the spotlight but foundering when it shines directly upon him. A set of
songs recorded for Sam Shepard’s play of the same name, Tooth of Crime should have reigned in Burnett’s worst lyrical
tendencies — cranky moralizing and narrow-minded nostalgia — except for the
fact that the play is moralizing and narrow-mindedly nostalgic. Save for a few
songs, Burnett’s angular melodies and propensity to mistake quirkiness for
creativity make Tooth of Crime a
downright painful listen.


“Kill Zone,” “Anything I Say Can and Will be Used Against You” ERIC

Tendrils: A Video Document by Mia Ferm

January 01, 1970


(Asthmatic Kitty, 50


“The recorded
version of the song is not necessarily the definitive version of the song.” So
says Ray Raposa (dba Castanets) in the marketing materials for Tendrils, a document of his music, but
not necessarily him. It’s humble, virtually removing oneself from one’s own
DVD—who needs to watch another indie filmmaker following around yet another
indie rocker so we can see what we should already know from the music: that
he’s pretty good at what he does, and he’s just like you and me? It’s also
kinda pretentious, lettin’ the songs do
the talkin’ through your friends (Dirty
Projectors’ Dave Longstreth, Jesse Ainslie, Phosphorescent), who not only
interpret the songs, but twiddle knobs, tell lame dirty jokes, frolic in a
pond, and discuss lyrics in Farsi with Polish subtitles (no joke there—at least
not a funny one). However, Raposa’s songs are, y’know, pretty good; haunting
and affecting, and no less so in the hands of his pals (especially Longstreth,
whose opening take on “Rain Will Come” is a stunner). And the images—a long pan
across foamy tide, two friends alone and playing music with (and maybe to) each
other on the street—are as powerful and hypnotic as the tunes. So score one for
Raposa and Co.


Special features: Download code for Castanets’ Tendrils EP, featuring remixes and


Shearwater – Rook

January 01, 1970





Jonathan Meiburg, beginning with 2002’s Everybody Makes Mistakes and gradually morphing Shearwater from an Okkervil River side project into a full time concern
by the time of 2006-07’s Palo Santo/Palo
Santo: Expanded Edition
, has finally written his masterpiece. Meiburg’s signatures,
now exquisitely refined, remain: ascending melodies that convey a deep yearning,
a reaching forth; an astounding soprano singing voice; and astute lyric studies
of the human condition, often couched in animal metaphors — here, piano ballad
“The Snow Leopard,” about the frail nature of consciousness, and the insistent “Rooks,”
whose images of birds crashing from the sky and being gathered to be burned “in
a feathery pyre” is at once disturbing and poetic.


Rook flows so
effortlessly as to suggest Concept! Alert! yet never succumbs to
heavy-handedness; it’s as organic and inviting as Okkervil’s The Stage Names. It’s also deceptively
complex, chiefly due to a conscious effort to expand the group’s sonic vision,
which now includes strings and horns, into the realm of the cinematic (both the
woodsy “Home Life” and the lush, swaying “Leviathan, Bound,” for example, seem
plucked from the soundtrack of some doomed-love European art film). The album heralds Meiburg’s leap from gifted song stylist
to master conductor and arranger — he’s been building towards this moment.


Standout Tracks: “Rooks,”
“Leviathan Bound” FRED MILLS

Amos Lee – Last Days at the Lodge

January 01, 1970

(Blue Note)




If Amos Lee’s 2005 debut was
the cross-marketed phenom that introduced him to baristas and coffee moms
across the country, and its 2006 follow-up proved that he actually could
deliver the soul-flecked rootsy goods in a legitimate fashion, then Last
Days at the Lodge
is where he flexes both his creativity and his
credibility. Producer Don Was brings his predictably solid skills to bear on
Lee’s sound, amplifying both its most accessible (“Listen”) and heartfelt
(“What’s Been Going On”) attributes. The rich production, along with musical
assistance from all-stars like Doyle Bramhall, Jr. and Spooner Oldham,
positions Last Days as a record that’s as ambitious as it is
well-funded. Thankfully, Lee loses neither his voice nor his soul in the
process. For such a young man, he evinces a surprisingly well-worn singing
style that’s as evocative of ‘70s soul as it is singer-songwriter
introspection. Wielding that voice in tandem with these beefy tunes results in
an album that’s both warmer and stronger than a double latte.


Standout Tracks: “Jails
and Bombs,” “Won’t Let Me Go” JASON FERGUSON

Melvins – Nude With Boots

January 01, 1970





Pissing on expectations is
something the Melvins have gotten pretty good at. But Nude With Boots is
perhaps the group’s most surprising record yet. After expanding their ranks to
a quartet by absorbing the post-metal duo Big Business and proceeding to
demolish intestinal tracts worldwide with their new, double-drummer lineup, the
Melvins have released an album that actually comes across as kinda weak. Not
“weak” as in “lame,” but “weak” as in “lacking strength.”


As one of the few heavy rock
groups who can get their fans to tolerate hour-long noise-blasts and
experimental electronics, it remains to be seen if those same fans can swallow
the bland, classic-rock urges that manifest themselves on Nude. A few
cuts – “Dog Island,” “The Savage Hippy” – find the
Melvins going for the jugular, but the majority of this disc is surprisingly
uninspired and tame. Wielding two exceptional drummers should result in an
overwhelming percussive attack, but the straightforward, four-on-the-floor
dreck of “The Stupid Creep” and “Nude With Boots” would be unacceptably bland
even from the White Stripes. Combining that with the reedy, downmixed guitar
work of Buzz Osborne and the most threatening band on the planet has suddenly
become impotent. Which is quite unexpected indeed.


Standout Tracks: “Dog Island,”
“The Savage Hippy” JASON FERGUSON