Category Archives: CD

GIANT SAND – Glum (25-Year Anniversary Re-issue)

Album: Glum (25-Year Anniversary Re-issue)

Artist: Giant Sand

Label: Fire Records

Release Date: November 08, 2019

www.firerecords.com

Get spun or be glum: This is not a record review, but a freakin’ imprimatur to one day retire to the desert. Wash your hair and comb your face.

BY FRED MILLS

In 1992 a coupla East Coasters – that would be me, and my beautiful wife, from North Carolina – took a chance on the Old Pueblo (that’s “Tucson” to my fellow non-natives). Among other things, the move would eventually spawn a young Mills in the early days of ’01 precisely because our desert sojourn had bestowed upon us the courage to simply follow our instincts, rather than our random, often misguided, impulses. Said young Mills is now a college student here in NC, although let the record show that he was also accepted to the University of Arizona and, for a spell, he seriously entertained the idea, at least until the nuances of the term “in-state tuition” became clearer. But I digress…

For my part, I attribute much of my courage to being privy to, often on a firsthand basis (such as the courage of @Allison Mills, duh), that of other residents and transplants, who no doubt had to learn how to navigate the arc of the bad crazy sun during the day while sidestepping random cholla cactus spines that, as best I could tell, were being shot out, with maximum perversity, of aliens’ teeshirt cannons from myriad directions. Well, I learned how to hike in Arizona eventually.

Among those transplants was Mr. Howe Gelb, whose band Giant Sand had already caught my attention prior to my arrival. “Desert rock,” yo. And then came 1994, and “Glum,” on the brutally short-lived (and, let’s face it, somewhat inept during those grungy alt-rock-in-ascendance days) Imago label. All respect to my old friends at Imago – y’all did the best with with what ya wuz dealt. And new respect to Howe’s current supporters at Britain’s Fire Records, with the new 2LP version of “Glum,” which features an extra live disc and all the CD edition’s bonus tracks on the digital download.

The album is as much a revelation in 2019 as it was on “repeat” back when I was manning the trade counter and store stereo at the Zia Records location in 1994. Sean Murphy (of the River Roses), Mike Bollman (record collector extraordinaire), Maggie Golston (also a musician, and a local poet of considerable note), and all the rest of us played it over and over, no doubt aggravating the younger crew that came in later in the day to relieve us of our duties (the store was open until midnight). I suspect we converted more than a few of them to the cause, however, because an album this magical, this so purely Tucson, only happens once in awhile. It was recorded in New Orleans for the most part, but with folks like Rainer Ptacek and Chris Cacavas clocking in alongside Howe, Joey, John, and Paula Jean (let’s not forget Patsy of Patsy’s Rats either) among the many guest players (there is a gentleman named Peter Holsapple among the credits, fellow current North Carolinians), it’s all Old Pueblo.

It’s sublime and serene, chaotic and profane, sexily discombobulated, and both unearthly and familar all at the same time. In short, it was then, and to this day it remains, the sound of Tucson circa ’94. I know, because I was there.

Which is, I suspect, the way Howe intended it. Goddam, this record sounds good. Listen to him croak ‘n’ croon. I just may wash my hair, comb my face, and then go find a random record store where I can stand behind the counter for a few minutes as I savor the memories prior to being ejected from the premises for “activities inscrutable.” So be it. R.I.P. Pappy Allen.

TRACKS TO TRACK DOWN: “Yer Ropes,” “Spun,” “Helvakowboysong,” “World Stands Still” (KCRW live),  “Water Fuels the Fire” (bonus, w/download)

THE ELECTRAJETS – Transatlantic Tales

Album: Transatlantic Tales

Artist: ElectraJets

Label: Tarbeach Music

Release Date: September 27, 2019

www.tarbeachmusic.com

BY JONATHAN LEVITT

Since one of my guitar heroes, Ray “Sonic” Hanson (Thee Hypnotics, etc.) is featured on four of its tracks, I was immediately fascinated by The ElectraJets‘ new album. With a sinister, lo-fi haze, the record is the perfect soundtrack for the dirty boulevard especially now that it’s cold and sooty outside, and the streets are filled with cunts with long faces!

“4 a.m. Strangeways” is a gritty opener that will have you stomping your feet and wondering if its 1979 all over again. “Darkness,” the only track on the album written solely by bassist Cynthia Ross (sounding like Johnette Napolitano from Concrete Blonde), is a poetic gem and could have easily fit in the carny scene from the Wim Wenders film Wings of Desire. “Suicide Spaceship” will satisfy ardent Thee Hypnotics fans, with Ray’s crazed wah-howl splattered all over the proceedings. On “Happy Smack” Jeff Ward’s guitar playing reaches new levels of greatness; this, melded together with his drug-addled vocals, made the song an unsettling affair.

Nestled between track 11 and 13 is a number called “Sarah’s Truth” that’s credited to Sarah Amina, which stuns with its throbbing sonics and haunting lyrics. So, what makes this record so compelling? Would we want a closer look even if Ray Hanson wasn’t involved? I’d say the answer is a resounding ‘yes.’ While I can understand why they wanted Ray to play on the album, Jeff Ward is really the one who makes this record tick. The album has a specific swagger that would’ve been well-received, even if the songs weren’t half as interesting. Sadly, I hear this may be the final ElectraJets album, and if that’s the case, then they go out with their heads hanging high.

TRACKS TO TRACK DOWN: “4 a.m. Strangeways,” “Suicide Spaceship,” “Darkness,” “Happy Smack,” “Sarah’s Truth”

ROCKETSHIP – Thanks To You

Album: Thanks To You

Artist: Rocketship

Label: Nonstop Co-op/Darla

Release Date: October 11, 2019

www.darla.com

BY TIM HINELY

Wow, I’ve been hearing rumblings of a new Rocketship record for like, well, years but nothing has ever materialized until now. Yes, this is the same Rocketship led by Dusty Reske that released some classic indie pop records back in the 90’s (that record on Slumberland, A Certain Smile, A Certain Sadness is an all-time fave). He later took some forays into ambient/electronic stuff that I didn’t like as much but Rocketship is back and this record sounds excellent. The thing is here that Reske, working with dreamy vocalist Ellen Osborn, didn’t try and recapture that 90’s sound of the band. I mean, there’s still elements of that sound all over the record but on Thanks To You Reske is definitely following his own musical mind and it shows.

At times you might think it’s a lost, baroque 60’s record that Curt Boettcher or The Left Banke did with some real weird organs/keyboard sounds. Kept in Reske’s talented hands he reigned in the songwriting (he basically kept the songs from floating off to never never land) and really made a unique record. First cut ‘Under Streetlights Shadows” is a perfect distillation of all that Reske has done (bits of space pop, shoe gaze, etc.) while the soaring “I Just Can’t Get Enough of You” might be there best song on here in all its otherworldly glory. “Outer Otherness” might be as close as he’s gonna get to straight synthpop (and it’s a blast when Osborn’s vocals come popping in) and “What’s the Use of Books” reminded me a bit of old NYC French pop band Ivy (again, another killer vocal performance by Osborn) and don’t miss the impossibly lovely “City Fair.”

For Reske to make another classic record, 20 years after the fact, isn’t just surprising, it’s downright thrilling! Again, he wasn’t trying recreate his past, but just doing what he does best and on Thanks To You he really put his best foot forward (again).

TRACKS TO TRACK DOWN: “I Just Can’t Get Enough of You,” “Outer Otherness,” “City Fair”

 

 

 

THE MAVERICKS – Play The Hits

Album: Play the Hits

Artist: Mavericks

Label: Thirty Tigers/Mono Mundo Recordings

Release Date: November 01, 2019

https://www.themavericksband.com/

BY JOHN B. MOORE

Ah, the covers album. Once seen as little more than a stop gap until the band could pull together enough new material for a new album, lately, thanks to folks like Corb Lund and Ben Lee’s soon-to-be released record, cover albums seem to be moving towards a much more satisfying experimental phase (Americana Lund covering AC/DC, Indie stalwart Lee covering Fugazi, for example).  And while The Mavericks don’t venture too far beyond their influences on Play The Hits, the record is still crammed with a mix of good-to-great cover songs.

Among the best is their take on Waylon Jennings’s “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way” and the fantastically inventive spin on Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart,” complete with their trademark Tex Mex horns and accordion. Even on some of the more ho hum tracks here, like John Anderson’s “Swingin’” (the early ‘80s country song was never that great to begin with), the band manages to elevate the original thanks to Raul Malo’s remarkably smooth croon (his voice on Hank Cochran’s “Why Can’t She Be You” is simply stunning). The band’s stated goal was to tackle songs that they started playing early on in their three decades together as a group. That explains why Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel” was in the mix, despite that song having nearly been covered to death at this point.

Though not as great as their last few albums of all original songs, Play The Hits is still a fun holdover until the band comes back with another record.

TRACKS TO TRACK DOWN:  “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way,” “Before The Last Teardrop Fall” and “Why Can’t She be You”

BARK – Terminal Everything LP

Album: Terminal Everything

Artist: Bark

Label: Cool Dog Sound

Release Date: June 28, 2019

https://bark-bark-loud.bandcamp.com/album/terminal-everything

Knoxville’s finest are still that city’s big dogs, and no amount of physical and psychic loss they’ve experienced will ever diminish that fact.

BY FRED MILLS

Tim and Susan Bauer Lee are now on their third outing as Bark, the Knoxville, Tenn., husband-and-wife team which, for a short while, overlapped with their previous trio, the Tim Lee 3. For those of us who have been charting their evolution over the years up to their current incarnation as a kind of self-enclosed small/mobile/intelligent musical duo, Terminal Everything represents a bit of a culmination of promise… it is one motherfucker of an album, and I use that term on more than just a colloquial level. It kicks ass, sure, featuring the kinds of indelible rock ’n’ roll hooks that Tim has been serving up since the early ‘80s in the Windbreakers (reference: yours truly’s dissection of 1985’s Terminal as part of my “The College Rock Chronicles” series), not to mention the muscular rhythmic nuances that Susan brought to the fore throughout the TL3’s tenure (for your consideration: a review of the band’s 2016 swansong Tin, Man).

Not to mention that this album further refines the pair’s steady incursions into bluesier, and at times heavier, territory, areas that were certainly signposted over the years and which bubbled decisively to the surface on 2017’s scabrous-yet-elegant Year of the Dog, spotlighted by such dusky jewels as the baritone guitar-fueled “How You Gonna Miss Me” and the minimalist trudge of “World of Regret.” There was also a Link Wray-centric sonic depth charge submerged deep in the middle of the album, but you’ll have to work for that one, gentle listeners. I’m not here to hold your hand.

I’m not here to hold Tim or Susan’s hand either, other than to tell them that… I get it. And this album, put simply, destroys me. It’s more than just the fact that I already know about their losing Tim’s mom and Susan’s pop, plus their beloved pooches, which of course anyone with half an aorta could understand might inform songs subsequently written in the aftermath of an emotional trauma. “This world just wants to break my heart,” the Lees intone together, somberly, against the low-key, garage-twang arrangement of “This World,” and it comes across as far, far more profoundly than if uttered as a throwaway line by an 18-year old pop tart singer wholly unaware of what the word “break” fully implies. Here, the song ends up as gospel reverie, and anyone who has even the slightest knowledge about gospel music will understand that when people write and sing songs in this manner, they’re not making an observation—they’re asking, in some manner, for deliverance.

 

Many of the other songs similarly trace the lines of existential darkness. For deeply personal reasons, I’m drawn over and over to opening track “Walk Small” which is clearly dedicated to their aforementioned doggos, with its metaphorical depiction of how it feels to one day hear four paws gently padding the house, only to realize on the next day how that subtle sound is abruptly absent; the music hearkens to some of Tim’s classic Windbreakers power pop compositions, thanks to his instinctive riff sense, and the gentle chorus harmonies that Tim excelled at with bandmate Bobby Sutliff back in the day and has subsequently found a second co-voice in Susan. Each time I hear the lines, “You graced us with your presence/ We didn’t know how good we had / You never let go of your essence / Even when it all went bad,” I think about my own hairy children, in particular Sammy The Dawg, who is now about 14, knowing that when I inevitably, finally have to say goodbye to him, I will say to myself, “I didn’t know how good it was.” But hearing those lines at this moment in time simply makes me want to sing along, and celebrate another creature’s noble existence.

And the churning surf/garage/blooze workout “Apocalypse Shimmy,” though dark as Kentucky coal (it’s written by Cody Cox), demonstrates how a musician can peer deep into the darkness and then find his or her way back from the edge simply by, as the saying goes, kicking out the fucking jams. A little reverb and a lotta tremolo can do wonders when someone’s needing some relief, ya know?

A decade or so ago, in a long conversation I had with Patti Smith, she made the observation that part of the artist’s job is to provide a shoulder for the rest of us to lean on when we need that kind of solace and reassurance: You are not alone. I have gone through this myself. I’ve believed that ever since. And Terminal Everything, despite its death-centric title and myriad bleak moments, is not an album about despairing or giving up. It’s about voicing, acknowledging, and accepting the stuff all of us have to go through, and then offering an outstretched hand.

Accept that offer with your own hand, just like the two hands are doing on the cover of this remarkably moving record, easily the best independent release—hell, just make that the best album—I have heard in 2019 thus far.

Postscript: This also gets my vote for best record sleeve of the year, hands down. A limited-to-300-copies, hand-numbered vinyl edition, it offers a 3-color, hand-printed, letterpress sleeve courtesy Knoxville’s Striped Light Letterpress company, and it is as tactile-compelling as it is visually arresting. You can also score it on regular CD or download, of course—and I would be remiss by not mentioning that if you drop into the BandCamp link for the album, above, you might want to check out a digital-only album they have up on the site called Quake Orphans, which hearkens back to a long-out-of-print limited edition from 2013 that is now newly available. Just sayin’….

TRACKS TO TRACK DOWN: “Walk Small,” “This World,” “Apocalypse Shimmy,” “Chimneyville”

MUTTS – Stuck Together

Album: Stuck Together

Artist: Mutts

Label: self-released

Release Date: October 25, 2019

www.download.muttsmusic.com

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

Combine ample amounts of swagger, a hint of soul and an ample dash of swing, and the result manifests as Mutts, a band that defies any categorization other than to tag them as both bold and brash. Their new album, Stuck Together, makes no attempt at gradual engagement but instead comes across with full steam from the get-go.

Indeed, it’s an uncompromising set of songs, especially given its in-your-face attitude and furious, frenetic rhythms. Still, there’s something to be said for a band that possesses such emphatic energy and uncompromising intents. Some may feel a bit overwhelmed by the bombastic approach that accompanies inherent their brazen delivery, but given the complex arrangements, as well as the dedication and determination, there’s plenty to ponder even in the midst of an approach that often veers towards a decidedly psychotic sound.

Even though it appears to be fuelled by more frenzy than finesse much of the time, Stuck Together does allow for some sense of creative cacophony regardless.

TOP TRACKS TO TRACK DOWN: “I’ll Be Around,” “Better Believe It”

Doors – The Soft Parade (50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) 3CD/1LP

Album: The Soft Parade (50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)

Artist: The Doors

Label: Rhino/Elektra

Release Date: November 01, 2019

www.rhino.com

By Fred Mills

“I swear to God, I don’t wanna hear no talk about no Constitution” (alt title: “When I Was Back There in Seminary School”):

Forget that namby-pamby “the day the music died…” AOR radio crap… on Feb. 25, 1969, The Doors recorded an hour-plus song called “Rock Is Dead” during the tail end of sessions for their epochal/flawed/controversial/misunderstood/chart-topping album “The Soft Parade” (which, full disclosure, blew my 14-year old mind, as I had no reference points… this was not the “Hello I Love You” that had guided my pubescent teen trying-to-connect-with-a-chick bumblings of the previous lovin’ summer, that’s for sure).

True believers such as moi were certainly not privy to RID back in the day, as it only started surfacing in bootleg form, and in various fractured iterations, until (if memory serves) the mid ’80s, and even then, probably only on cassette among my fellow underground of tape traders. At that point, only Echo & the Bunnymen were probably willing to go on record as being Jim Morrison & Co. fans, such was the tarnished, classic rock legacy of the band.

And then Oliver Stone arrived, stage left.

His March ’91 Morrison biopic “The Doors” needs no introduction, and I will not lay out any arguments fo’ or agin’ it here, other than to note that it heralded the proverbial Third Coming of St. Jim – the Second Coming being, of course, when “Rolling Stone” magazine put out their classic revivalist issue proclaiming, “He’s Hot, He’s Sexy, and He’s Dead!” on the cover in the ’80s. (I have a tangential story about Matthew Sweet relating directly to that RS issue I’ll share with anyone privately, btw.) So as these journo things go, in the fall of 1990, I was the music editor of a Charlotte alt-weekly, Creative Loafing (RIP), and my editors agreed that it would be awesome if I could do some deep research on the Stone film for a subsequent high-profile piece to hit when the movie arrived in the spring – and maybe, just maybe, we could scoop the clueless clowns at the local daily.

Oh boy, did we ever. And oh boy, did I get more than I was looking – bargaining – for.

I was already plugged into a certain u-ground scene due to the fact that for close to about a decade I had been scribbling for shitty rock rags left and right; the free recs were the draw, of course, and then somehow I realized I actually enjoyed running my mouth to a captive (i.e., print fanzine) audience. Plus, when I was back there in my seminary school classes, I learned I could petition my audience with, not necessarily prayer, but at least provocative propositions. So here we are in late 1990, and I’m making a few casual inquiries among my indie rock contacts – at the time, I have no clue whatsoever as to how to reach out to an actual Hollywood film production – and, meanwhile, I’ve begun haunting the Charlotte library and commanding their microfiche machines in order to locate and then print out vintage Doors stories and reviews. (Yes, I still have those and all my Doors research files in a box in the attic. Probably severely faded by now. I’ll keep you posted.)

And then – the proverbial key turned in the lock. At the time I was also a longtime contributor to indie bible Option Magazine, and upon seeing my query, my editor there told me, “Oh yeah, I know the guy who worked with Stone as his screenwriter on the film. Here’s his number, tell him I said for you to call him.” With that, I was on the horn with J. Randall Johnson (looking him up at IMDB, I don’t have time to put in links on this)

Long story short: Randy provided me with a coupla hours’ worth of details, anecdotes, and (presumably still) off-the-record stuff about putting together the film, working with Stone, and of course navigating the cultural and financial minefield that is all things Doors. More important, though, is how he opened up multiple doors (see what I just did?) that gave me access well beyond what we at the paper had ever considered might be possible. In short order, I was talking to Doors manager Bill Siddons, who in turn connected me with the publicists for both Robby Krieger and John Densmore (the latter was working on a book to come out next spring as well, so he was motivated; the former was working with Eric Burdon at the time so probably less motivated, but he indicated he had some solo irons in the fire, so….). Multiple interviews with principals went down, with plenty of off-record shit uttered along the way – for some reason, I had passed the smell test and was in the circle of trust, and when they said, “Please don’t quote me on this part…” I promised I would respect the request. And I still do. I’ll leave it to my kid as to what he wants to do with all my interview cassettes once I’m gone, of course, but those tapes are sitting in my garage right now.

One thing that you might assume would have stayed off-record, however, was never designated as such. Somehow I was also put in touch with the Lizard King’s old drinking buddy, veteran filmmaker Frank Lisciandro, who was also preparing a Doors-related photo book, so he was probably inclined to talk to the press. That was a memorable evening over the NC-to-LA phone line, with plenty of terrific Morrison and Doors anecdotes, plus a particular nugget: Due to drugs and alcohol, Morrison was impotent for the final couple of years of his life. No one had ever gone on the record at that point regarding the sex god’s issues, aside from veiled comments over the years about Jim’s “issues” related to booze. I duly printed the quote, although naturally there was no way to independently verify such details; by that point, in 1990, Pamela Morrison was long gone, too, so I really could only take Frank’s word. But if anyone knew the truth, he probably did, so I stand behind my reporting, such as it was.

As an aside:I tried my best to nail down Ray Manzarek (RIP) for an interview, but around that time he had already had his falling out with Oliver Stone and was not interesting in pimping the film in the least. If memory serves, Danny Sugarman (RIP) was repping Ray at the time, and he was definitely no help – in fact, he was a total dick, blowing me off twice for interviews I’d arranged separately with him, but I shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, dick or no dead dick.

Somewhere along the way, in the middle of all this, Doors cover band The Back Doors came to Charlotte and played the 13-13 Club. Yeah, of course I went.

At any rate: the movie arrived in the multiplexes, Val Kilmer got his props and his drubbings, Creative Loafing had its cover story that circulated through our multiple cities, and my story even got picked up by other cities’ alt-weeklies. Thanks to my many fanzine contacts out in the hinterlands, I also published extended versions (“director’s cut”) of my story in a national music magazine and overseas mags in Spain, Germany, and Australia.

Yeah, in one form or another, I got paid about 6 or 7 times – I sure didn’t go out and buy a Ferrari in the aftermath, but I did pick up a few Doors bootleg discs.

I busted my ass for at least 3 or 4 month working on a band that was massively important to me. In the research process, I started having Jimbo dreams, and if I could have found a pair of leather jeans someplace, I probably would’ve put ’em on. Somehow my wife and my friends put up with me throughout it all, although I have a vague memory of rooms clearing every time I would cue up “The End.”

What I did NOT subject them too, though, is the sonic and poetic anarchy of Morrison’s “Rock Is Dead,” a 64-minute disjointed – yet fascinating – traipse through the history of rock ‘n’ roll, though the eyes and ears of JM. As I made many, many contacts within the Doors collector community during this period, I was able to acquire a relative high-generation of the entire, unbootlegged tape. It reportedly was provided to me following one of my higher-profile Doors camp contacts giving me the thumbs-up as someone who could be trusted not to circulate it. And I never have.

It’s on the just-released 50th anniversary, 3-CD / 1-LP deluxe edition of “The Soft Parade” (on RHINO ) in all its bizarrely beautiful, derangedly riveting glory, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants an unvarnished, never-officially-released glimpse into the vaunted Morrison id. Casual fans, well… not so much. But then, if you’ve read this far, and if you love “The Soft Parade” as much as I do, or even almost as much as I do, you’ll dig it. Petition your local indie record store with prayer to make sure they stock it.

Check it out at the Spotify link below. Break on through.

https://open.spotify.com/track/09IGIoxYilGSnU0b0OambC…

NICK LOWE – Love Starvation EP

Album: NICK LOWE - Love Starvation EP

Artist: Nick Lowe

Label: Yep Roc

Release Date: October 04, 2019

Yep Roc

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

Let it be said that Nick Lowe is such an exceptional artist that even a four song EP can offer as much satisfaction as an entire LP by practically anyone else. At this point in his career he’s clearly capable of shoring up his strengths with an abbreviated set of songs that sound like ready made classics even from the get go. Love Starvation is, in fact, essential Lowe, melodies that recall the best music he’s made throughout his career, from his early days as a proficient power pop champion through to his rebirth as an Americana Anglophile, flush with both credence and conviction.

Backed by his current collaborators, Los Straitjackets, Lowe sits comfortably at the helm, producing the effort and contributing three of its four songs. Opener “Love Starvation” brings to mind songs like “Cruel to be Kind” and his initial solo sojourns, flush with energy and effusive enthusiasm. “Trombone” sounds like a ready-made single, pop perfect and radio ready. The final two songs, “Blue on Blue” and “Raincoat in the River” find Lowe reverting to music of a vintage variety, affecting a smooth croon that would likely compel the Big O himself, Roy Orbison, to nod his approval. The arrangements echo that dedicated delivery, sharing the sense that Lowe has not only absorbed a certain pop pedigree, but effectively inherited it all by himself.

If this was the only thing Lowe had ever done, it would still be enough to constitute an abbreviated greatest hits, Indeed, each song represents Lowe at his very best. Love Starvation is not only a must-have acquisition, but also ample reason to love Lowe all on its own.

DOWNLOAD: “Blue on Blue,” “Love Starvation,” “Trombone”
Go HERE to view our review and photo gallery of Lowe and Los Straitjackets live in Atlanta.

BRETT NEWSKI – Live in Wisconsin

Album: Live in Wisconsin

Artist: Brett Newski

Label: self-released

January 01, 1970

https://brettnewski.com/

BY JOHN B. MOORE

For close to a decade now, Brett Newski has been living the troubadour life. And not, “oh, that guy tours for a month at a time, he’s a real troubadour.” No, the Wisconsin-based musician Newski, began his career in 2011 with a six-month Southeast Asia tour. He followed it up the next year with a 20-date South African tour and has pretty much been on the road ever since – playing festivals, opening for everyone from the Violent Femmes to Barenaked Ladies, to playing living room and basement shows. Sometimes with a buddy on drums, but, more often than not, traversing the globe alone, his live shows are a thing of wonder and beauty. Part stand up, part serenade, he even manages to play his own backbeat through foot pedals, accompanying himself on guitar and occasionally the kazoo.

It’s a wonder that it’s taken him this long to put out a live record. He does a good job of filling 14 tracks here with a nice cross section of music from his last few albums, from the deeply comical (“DIY”) to the slightly more earnest (“Ride”), with plenty of his charmingly witty banter interposed throughout.

While it hasn’t completely captured the feel of a Newski live show – that would be virtually impossible – it does a pretty admirable job. Live In Wisconsin is certainly worth picking up and playing on repeat until Newski comes through your town again. And based on his track record, that’s probably just a few weeks from now.

DOWNLOAD: “I’m Paranoid,” “DIY” and “No Anchor”

NEW PORNOGRAPHERS – In the Morse Code of Brake Lights

Album: In the Morse Code of Brake Lights

Artist: New Pornographers

Label: Concord

Release Date: September 27, 2019

www.concord.com

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

Longtime New Pornographer’s member Dan Bejar’s 2017 departure and subsequent minimal involvement notwithstanding, In the Morse Code of Brake Lights finds Vancouver’s odd and eccentric collective New Pornographers as exuberant as ever. While Neko Case’s moonlighting from her solo day job allows her to enliven the proceedings, it’s obvious that the ensemble, as a whole, contributes to the richness and resonance that the new album exudes in its entirety.

Indeed, there’s a lot to take in here in terms of the ambiance and arrangements. The effusive output found in such songs as “You’ll Need a Backstreet Drive,” “The Surprise Knock” and “Colossus of Rhodes” speaks to the group’s emphatic delivery, with all its surprising sounds and atmospheric infusion. Granted, it’s hard to catch some of the lyrics, and oftentimes the sheer magnitude of the proceedings can feel overwhelming, but credit the band for their invention and ingenuity regardless. Anyone who feels weighed down by their daily doldrums ought to feel inspired even after a single listen.

To be sure, there are moments of respite that give listeners time to catch their breath. The decidedly affirmative “Higher Dreams’ lives up to its billing, while “Falling Down the Stairs of Your Smile” offers a shimmering example of their more ethereal charms. Nevertheless, the giddy, gregarious vibe remains intact throughout, revived and renewed via “Dreamlike and On the Rush” and “You Won’t Need Those Where You’re Going,” two notable selections that appear midway through. It’s songs like these that underscore the adrenalin rush and suggest that the brake lights referred to in the album title are applied sparingly at best.

DOWNLOAD: “Higher Dreams,” “You’ll Need a Backstreet Drive,” “The Surprise Knock”