Monthly Archives: January 2014

MARK LANEGAN – Has God Seen My Shadow?- An Anthology 1989-2011

Album: Has God Seen My Shadow?- An Anthology 1989-2011

Artist: Mark Lanegan

Label: Light In The Attic

Release Date: January 14, 2014

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www.lightintheattic.net

 BY DANNY R. PHILLIPS

 If anyone that rose from the Seattle band boom of the 1980’s/90’s deserves an anthology of their solo work it is Mark Lanegan.  Sure, Kurt Cobain is more famous and didn’t record much alone, Alice in Chains’ Layne Staley is more a tragic figure and Chris Cornell may be more of a recognizable name but, Jesus Christ, have you heard Cornell’s solo work?  He is living proof that a great guitarist (Kim Thayil/ Tom Morello) can save a sinking ship.

 Lanegan doesn’t need someone to make him great, he does fine by himself and it shows with the anthology of his solo work Has God Seen My Shadow?- An Anthology 1989-2011 (Light in the Attic).  Whether it was standing tall with his blasting baritone in the seminal band Screaming Trees, guesting with Queens of The Stone Age, rockin’ with Afghan Whigs’ Greg Dulli as The Gutter Twins or crafting beautiful duets with Belle and Sebastian’s Isobel Campbell or solo, Lanegan always steals the show.

 Since 1990’s The Winding Sheet (featuring the haunting “Museum”), Lanegan has produced constantly beautiful, frayed, dark and genius music as he hid in the shadows.  Shadow is superb in content as well as presentation; the two cd set (3 LP and book of lyrics for the vinyl junkies out there like myself) is a testament to a man that, through his music and distinctive voice, has left his mark on the world. 

 Shadow is not without its holes however.  Built entirely from music recorded under his given name, it leaves out the countless great songs recorded during his many guest appearances that have helped bring him back into the public eye after the official disbanding of Trees in 2000.  Shadow is a decidedly low key event, nothing from 2012’s stellar Blues Funeral, no “Methamphetamine Blues,” not his cover of Nick Lowe’s “The Beast in Me,” a song that fits Lanegan and his life like a tailor made Italian suit.  We can’t have it all, can we?

 Shadow confirms that Lanegan, the redheaded stepchild of, forgive me for saying this, the grunge movement, is undoubtedly one its best songsmiths.  He has always had a knack for bringing the regret, loss and lament that has shaped his life into the world on a wave of melody; his popcorn and razor blade voice is that of a man who has lived life, which has seen it all and managed to write it all down.

 Lanegan has influenced countless musicians, most notably Matt Berninger of The National.  Songs like “Kimiko’s Dream House” (written with Jeffrey Lee Pierce of the influential band The Gun Club), “Sunrise,” “Creeping Coastline of Lights,” “One Hundred Days,” and “Dream Lullabye” show the level of songwriter Lanegan is; he is not just a junkie curiosity, a dope casualty or a washed out singer that barely avoided the fate of his brethren.  Lanegan survived and thrives, a voice from the fringe, one that should be heard and will be heard for years to come.

 If you are out there and your frame of musical interest does not go much past club music and Electronic music, if you dwell in the world of downloads and sound bites, do yourself a favor: put down the smartphone, stop texting for a few minutes and check out Has God Seen My Shadow?  Shut off the noise of the world, sit back and truly listen. 

 You will be glad you did.

 DOWNLOAD: “One Hundred Days” “Last One in the World” “Wild Flowers”

LAMBCHOP – Nixon

Album: Nixon

Artist: Lambchop

Label: Merge

Release Date: January 21, 2014

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www.mergerecords.com

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

When first released in early 2000, Nixon not only established Kurt Wagner and his rotating band of compatriots as forces to be reckoned with, but also established a bar that effectively set a new standard. A return from a period of relative hibernation, it was both an imaginative display of genre-hopping innovation and also a set of songs that dissolved the boundaries between inspiration and ambition. From its opening notes, the brassy cascade that kicks off “The Old Gold Shoe,” through to the emotional peaks scaled in “Nashville Parent” and “The Book I Haven’t Read,” Lambchop’s masterful combination of rock, lounge, country, gospel and vintage folk is dazzling to say the least. Capped with Wagner’s soaring falsetto and assured, soulful stride, the songs represent a conceptual conceit that’s just as dazzling well over a decade later. If the new alternative crowd could claim their own Sgt. Pepper, then Nixon would be its prime contender.

Now re-released as part of its record label’s 25th anniversary commemoration, Nixon proves as compelling as ever, and with the added bonus of five live solo songs from Mr. Wagner –1998’s How I Met Cat Power from the so-called “White Sessions” — there’s added incentive to revisit this gem. Despite the lack of a backing band – tape loops provide the only accompaniment — Wagner retains his compelling edge, previewing various tracks that would show up on later Lambchop endeavors, Nixon among them. Remarkably, the single most moving moment comes at its conclusion with the plaintive plea of “The Saturday Option,” a song tailor-made for an as-yet-unimagined mega musical.

DOWNLOAD: “The Saturday Option,” “Nashville Parent,” “The Book I Haven’t Read”

LONE JUSTICE – This is Lone Justice: The Vaught Tapes, 1983

Album: This is Lone Justice: The Vaught Tapes, 1983

Artist: Lone Justice

Label: Omnivore

Release Date: January 14, 2014

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omnivorerecordings.com

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

When was the last time you heard Lone Justice? Well, that’s too long. Cynics might argue that’s a bold statement to make about such an artistically compromised band (or so goes the legend). but the beauty of the L.A. band’s pair of studio records is that its inherent talent shone through the 80s studio gloss, even on the lushly produced Shelter. Fans who wish there was a LJ studio record as stripped down as their legendary live shows can rejoice at the arrival of This is Lone Justice: The Vaught Tapes, 1983, a live-in-the-studio demo recorded right after signing to Geffen, but before recording its self-titled debut.

Wielding a near-perfect blend of zesty C&W and punk-informed rock & roll, the young quartet blazes through a set of originals and favorite covers, attacking each with the glee of a band turned loose in the studio for the first time. (It was actually the second time, but the energy is the same.) “Dustbowl Depression Time,” “Cottonbelt” and “Soap, Soup and Salvation” (which would be re-recorded for the debut) put singer Maria McKee’s interest in Depression-era America atop frisky country rock, while “Cactus Rose,” her co-write with bassist Marvin Etzioni, and guitarist Ryan Hedgecock’s “When Love Comes Home to Stay” ease up on the tempo a bit but up the melodicism. Covers of George Jones’ “Nothing Can Stop My Loving You,” Merle Haggard’s “Working Man’s Blues” (intro’ed by the skillet-licking original instrumental “Vigilante”) and the traditional “This World is Not My Home” display a perfect balance of reverence and irreverence for the classic country and bluegrass that inspired the band.

David Vaught gives the performances clean, clear sound, and the band is tight as spandex on a hooker’s ass. McKee’s powerhouse larynx is easily the focal point, but doesn’t overpower the skillful contributions of her bandmates. Overall, This is Lone Justice: The Vaught Tapes, 1983 may just be the definitive Lone Justice recorded experience.

DOWNLOAD: “Cactus Rose,” “This World is Not My Home,” “Soap, Soup and Salvation”

TOY – Join the Dots

Album: Join The Dots

Artist: Toy

Label: Heavenly/PIAS

Release Date: January 28, 2014

 

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 www.heavenlyrecordings.com

 BY MICHAEL TOLAND

 To say psych rock lives is no surprise to anyone who follows music that’s not on the radio or Pitchfork-approved – the genre’s been a mainstay of the underground since its inception in the ‘60s. But the ongoing, surprisingly large success of Flaming Lips and the radio hit scored by Tame Impala (atypical as “Elephant” is) means psychedelia might actually make some dough, so the big spotlight turns to other up-and-comers with a battery of effects pedals and an acidic twinkle in the eye.

 Enter the radio-ready Toy and its second LP Join the Dots. Surrounded by a sonic cloud equal parts trippy and melodic, the London quintet sounds almost genetically engineered for psychedelia. Guitars shimmer and crunch, the rhythm section flickers between pop dynamics and driving drone and Tom Dougall’s plainspoken singing rings just this side of laconic. The band almost casually moves from delicious pop (“Endlessly,” “As We Turn”) to propulsive space rock (“Conductor,” the title track), sounding as comfortable with either as Glenn Beck does with insane conspiracy theories. Toy really hits a seductive stride when it mixes cosmic chocolate with pop peanut butter – “It’s Been So Long,” “Left to Wander” and the epic “Fall Out of Love” blaze and flutter like alien butterflies shifting between dimensions. No matter what confection the band prepares, the melody is the cake and the trippiness the frosting, making Join the Dots one of the most non-head accessible psych rock records since Tame Impala’s breakthrough.

 DOWNLOAD: “It’s Been So Long,” “As We Turn,” “Join the Dots”

TRENTALANGE – Same Illusion

Album: Same Illusion

Artist: Trentalange

Label: Coco Tauro

Release Date: January 28, 2014

Trentalange

www.trentalangemusic.com

 BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

 It’s been a full five years since Barbara Trentalange’s last effort, and in the interim, she’s had a child and a chance to reflect on her musical MO. Fortunately though, she hasn’t shed her innate quirkiness, nor forgotten the lessons learned while supporting the likes of Crooked Fingers, Calexico, Micah P. Hinson, and others.

 As evidenced by her first two albums, she seems to relish the unexpected elements that make Same Illusion sometimes seem so bizarre. She still incorporates the strange sounds that give the casual listener pause, particularly on “Uh Huh,” where Trentalange comes across like some new age siren akin to Debby Harry or the Motels’ Martha Davis. Yet, her moods can be difficult to read. The lurching “Without Your Love” finds her plucking on the piano like a kid learning “Chopsticks,” while the surreptitious serenade “Reconnected” and the meandering pace of the title track affirm an intriguing if somewhat aloof persona.

 Even when she aims at getting the momentum going on the songs “Freedom” and “River Child,” the forward thrust is short-lived. The listener is best advised to avoid a cursory listen and allow Same Illusion to cast its own distinctive spell.

 DOWNLOAD: “Freedom,” “River Child”

HOSPITALITY – Trouble

Album: Trouble

Artist: Hospitality

Label: Merge

Release Date: January 28, 2014

Hospitality

www.mergerecords.com

 

By Mike Shanley

 

Two years ago, Hospitality released a solid self-titled debut full of straightforward pop songs. What made it more than a batch of bright hooks came in vocalist/guitarist Amber Papini’s lyrical outlook and a series of well-placed overdubs that added a unique sonic texture to the three-piece lineup. (On tour, drummer Nathan Michel moved to guitar to recreate his studio additions).  As a followup, Trouble finds the band moving away from the breezy strums towards territory that gets a little more ambiguous, both musically and lyrically. That’s still a good thing.

 

While their first record ushered you in with an engaging Belle and Sebastian-style riff, “Nightingale” kicks off with what sounds like a few song ideas thrown together, complete with pregnant pauses between sections. Papini begins with a sinister lullaby, “If you go to sleep, dear/ you’ll see ghosts in your bed/…If you go to sleep here/ you’ll see sirens and vamps.” What follows sounds the dreams experienced during that sleep, in fragmented but intriguing verses, delivered by Papini’s sharp voice.

 

The trio retains the penchant for catchy grooves, but they come in non-linear form, or in completely different shapes. “I Miss Your Bones” begins with a pop power riff played in unison by the band. But they abandon it, and the song’s plot of lost love, halfway through. We’re left to hear them vamp for a while, building up the tension. “Going Out” has a slinky feel to it, with a cold undercurrent. The melancholia that was felt on the previous album has morphed into cynicism.

 

Without trying to sound retro or ironic, elements of ‘80s post-punk influences factor into some of Trouble. The rich guitar leads in “Rockets and Jets” recall John McGeoch’s chorused-out work with Siouxsie & the Banshees. On a few songs bassist Brian Betancourt trades the strings for a synthesizer, making the band sound like that rare brand of early ‘80s new wave that used keyboards and guitars to effectively create tension. “Last Words” offers the best example, and serves as something of a climax of the album. For six minutes, the band (mostly Michel, actually) layers piano, guitar, trumpet and more synths over a steady one-note bassline. Bathed in echo, Papini spins a tale of being marooned, calmly pleading, “Take me back to/ solid land.” If the Cocteau Twins were more of a rock band, they might sound like this.

 

From there, things gradually calm down. “Sunship” strolls gently with flute, trumpet and cello adding to the pastoral mood. “Call Me After” closes the album with just Papini and her acoustic guitar. The lyrics, which could be a missing puzzle piece to the earlier “It’s Not Serious,” reveals a feeling of optimism that hasn’t been heard much through the rest of the album.

 

The Hospitality of yore does appear on some of the tracks, but it’s clear the group has pushed itself towards newer territories which, while a little enigmatic at first, suit them perfectly.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Last Words,” “Rockets and Jets.”

 

ELENI MANDELL – Let’s Fly a Kite

Album: Let's Fly a Kite

Artist: Eleni Mandell

Label: Yep Roc

Release Date: January 28, 2014

Eleni Mandell

http://www.yeproc.com/

 BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

 There’s likely no situation that’s more out of sync than trying to carry on a career as a musician while also attempting to raise young children. So credit Eleni Mandell with capturing the joys of parenthood through the lens of a prolific singer/songwriter on her new album, Let’s Fly a Kite. Sung like a chanteuse and backed by label mate Nick Lowe’s crack band — Geraint Watkins (keyboards), Matt Radford (bass), Robert Trehern (drums), Martin Winning (wind instruments) – as well as Los Straitjackets’ Greg Townson on guitar and with Lowe’s producer Neil Brockbank behind the boards, it captures an aura of domestic bliss through songs that are unfailingly effervescent and jazz infused to the max.

 Mandell makes a convincing crooner, while Winning’s brassy flourishes and Brockbank’s subtle string arrangements create a timeless pop sheen that likens these songs to standards even on initial encounter. The casual saunter of “Put My Baby to Bed” (inspired by a phone conversation with her babysitter, natch), the cool caress of “The Man Who’s Always Lost,” the cheery shuffle that drives “Cool Water,” and the easy, breezy “Maybe Yes” each provide a knowing nod and wink which only affirm her savvy and sophistication. Imagine Doris Day with Nelson Riddle in tow, especially in the coy tone of a song like “Love Never Acted,” which finds Mandell attempting to lure a reticent prospect into giving romance a try. “I like bourbon on ice every now and again / I hoped you’d partake so this friendship could end.” Treading midway between swing and a sway, Mandell makes a convincing case.

 DOWNLOAD: “Cool Water,” “Put My Baby to Bed,” “Love Never Acted”

Ringo Starr Tribute Ceremony 1/20/14, Los Angeles

Dates: January 20, 2014

Location: El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles CA

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BY MARCUS BLAKE / PHOTOS BY UYEN TRAN

2014 brings a slew of tributes to the world’s favorite and all-time most popular band, The Beatles.It was fifty years ago this year that the Fabs came to America, did their landmark appearances on the Ed Sullivan show, captivating American audiences with their music creating Beatlemaniaand changed the face of the world as we know it.

To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of these history-making events, The Beatles are being honored with the release of The Beatles: The U.S. Albums cd box set and at this year’s Grammy Awards with the band getting a Lifetime Achievement Award.The Grammy’s festivities culminate in a once-in-a-lifetime tribute concert, The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute To The Beatles, where the two surviving ex-Beatles, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney are expected to reunite.

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But, first things first: on January 20th, filmmaker, David Lynch honored Ringo (above, along with Ringo’s wife Barbara) all on his own with a special tribute award ceremony and concert at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles, CA.

The David Lynch Foundation honored the former Beatle with a “Lifetime of Peace & Love” award and a “Starr” studded tribute concert celebrating Ringo’s catalog of Beatles and solo music “with a little help from his friends”. Performers included brother-in-law and Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh, soul chanteuse Bettye LaVette, ‘70s icon Peter Frampton, piano rocker Ben Folds, funnyman Jim Carrey, Benmont Tench of the Heartbreakers, percussion legend Sheila E., and musical director/producer Don Was.

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As Frampton (pictured above, with family) stated before the proceedings, “We’ve been friends ever since meeting during George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass sessions.I play with Ringo whenever I get a chance.I’ve also been in the All-Starr band for two tours of duty.”

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Betty LaVette (above) also added, “David has been gracious enough to let me be involved in this.I keep telling people that I’m not really a transcendental meditator, I’m a transcendental meditation groupie!So, I tend to kind of hang around them! We did the first one at Radio City Music Hall and I got to sing with Paul AND Ringo.Because I had “It Don’t Come Easy” on my Interpretations album, Ringo took a fancy to that and it will be so much fun to sing it to him (tonight)!”

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The David Lynch Foundation was created to provide scholarships to teach Transcendental Meditation to youths in underserved schools, veterans with post-traumatic stress (PTS), women who are survivors of domestic violence, and homeless and incarcerated individuals.

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Ringo is a longtime proponent of Transcendental Meditation dating back to when the Beatles studied with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in India in 1968.

Ringo summed it up nicely saying, “I’m supporting David because what he’s doing is basically the same as the Eastern self-help in the ‘60s Transcendental Meditation.Also, he’s putting it in schools and domestic violence has gone down.I mean, how far out is that?I mean, I cannot not support him.” (Below: the author with some of the artists featured in this article. Contact Marcus Blake via the BLURT website.)

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CHRIS WILSON — It’s Flamin’ Groovy!

Album: It's Flamin' Groovy!

Artist: Chris Wilson

Label: Twenty Stone Blatt

Release Date: January 14, 2014

Chris Wilson

www.twentystoneblatt.co.uk

 BY STEVE WILSON

 When Chris Wilson took Roy Loney’s place at the microphone with the Flamin’ Groovies he was all of nineteen years of age. He became the voice and face of the band, as well as Cyril Jordan’s new songwriting partner.

 Few of the songs he and Jordan created reached audiences until Shake Some Action was released in Britain in 1976. By that time the Flamin’ Groovies had morphed. With Loney they were part Stones, part Lovin’ Spoonful, more informed by Dr. Ross and Gene Vincent than the jingle-jangle power pop (heavy on Beatlesque, British invasion markers) that the Groovies later practically created as a genre.

 On Shake, Now, and Jumpin’ in the Night, the trilogy of albums for Sire Records that the Groovies cut between 1976 and 1979, they forged a sound that leaned on pealing, gorgeous guitar sounds, derived from Harrison and McGuinn much more than Keith Richard’s grit. And Chris Wilson’s vocals, while urgent and authoritative, were more Lennon than Jagger. The kid who smoked through Jordan-Loney’s “Slow Death” in 1971 was still an expressive singer, but he was a bit manicured to fit in with the band’s emphasis on plangent harmonies.

 On Chris Wilson’s new solo album, It’s Flamin’ Groovy!, you hear the range that he can cover as a singer, alternately leaning on the late Seventies approach he’s best known for, but also embracing the gap-toothed, shaggy haired kid who howled through “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” (also hear the aforementioned “Slow Death” and an early, driving demo of “Shake Some Action” on the Norton release, Slow Death/Amazin’ High Energy Rock n’ Roll 1971-73!).

 As a senior rocker Wilson still has the same assets and liabilities as lyricist he had with the Flamin’ Groovies; he can be simple, but effectively pop poetic, at the same time he can lapse into cliché that’s … clichéd. On his new album, some of Wilson’s most resonant performances are on virtual ready-mades. “All the Action” is descended from “Shake Some Action” in more than name, and the sound is still Beatles, Byrds, with a dash of (honestly) Paul Revere and the Raiders. His Groovies pals Jordan and bassist George Alexander guest on this track, as they do on “Sweet Anne,” a tasty dash of Exile on Main Street derived Stones-love. “She Satisfies” rhymes ‘good vibration’ with pretty much anything that rhymes with vibration, all set to a guitar figure that’s a stepchild to “Doctor Robert.” “Heart in Her Hand” sustains a girl as music as muse metaphor to a lick that’s pure “Rosalie” (Bob Seger).

 “Last Roll of the Dice,” with its Sticky Fingers murk features a nice guest spot from Procol Harum organist Matthew Fisher. “Down to the Wire” and “Semaphore Signals” also have that Stones-leaning-on-Gram Parsons vibe, the sound that frankly helped lead a generation or two of rocker punks to country music.

 A dash of Celtic Zeppelin animates “Bad Dreams,” garnished with “Kashmir” strings, while ‘Heroin’s” familiar ostinato drives “Feel Your Love,” a song which Wilson sings with depth defying what the beyond dull title of the song would suggest.

 It’s Flamin’ Groovy! holds some mild surprises, some predictable treasures, and while it’s rarely revelatory it also rarely disappoints. Anyone who’s enjoyed Chris Wilson’s stamp on the Flamin’ Groovies will get a kick out of the performances here. And hearing him kick up his heels with his predecessor Roy Loney on “Gamblin’ Man,” squares the circle.

 Roy Loney and Cyril Jordan have played recently with backing from various A-Bones and Yo La Tengo members, while the Loney-Wilson-Alexander version of the Groovies has reconvened in the last two years for festival and touring dates. The latter is presently recording a set of brand new Flamin’ Groovies tunes, which will be welcome to fans, as is Chris Wilson’s It’s Flamin’ Groovy!.

 DOWNLOAD: “All The Action,” “She Satisfies”

AMY RAY — Goodnight Tender

Album: Goodnight Tender

Artist: Amy Ray

Label: Daemon

Release Date: January 28, 2014

Amy Ray

www.daemonrecords.com

 BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

 Indigo Girl Amy Ray builds further on her already ample solo catalogue with a set of songs that hew to purely backwoods terrain. The Indigo Girls’ penchant for anthemic folk rock is wholly absent here, but Ray’s credibility as a country crooner is never in doubt.

 Somewhat surprisingly, her vocal style takes on a masculine timbre that likens her at times to a  heartbroken hillbilly, all wrapped up in the traditional trappings of banjos, fiddles, pedal steel and stand-up bass. And while she manages to wrangle some big name guests — Justin Vernon, Kelly Hogan and Susan Tedeschi are among those that lend an assist on backing vocals — the subjects of the songs are decidedly of the less upscale variety — songs mostly about faith (“The Gig That Matters,” “Let the Faith,” “Hunter’s Prayer,” “Oyster and Pearl”), a faithful companion (“My Dog”) and decidedly earthly inspiration (“Duane Allman,” “More Pills”).

 Ultimately, Ray renders Goodnight Tender in ways that are humble and homespun, suitable for the stage of the Opry, a down-home hoedown or any setting where folks gather to share their tears along with their beers.  An unassuming venture, but capable and well executed one regardless.

 DOWNLOAD: “The Gig That Matters,” “Duane Allman,” “Hunter’s Prayer”