Friday, April 28, 2006

Tim Easton Friday Extra...

The good folks at New West Records sent me this Tim Easton song. It's quite good and I'm a huge fan of Tim Easton as you should be. Give it a listen:

Dear Old Song And Dance

The Great Random Friday...

I'm all over the place lately. My ears have been undisciplined and deserve to be spanked. Whatever that means. Ok, I actually know what that means. It means that I've got a bunch of random stuff I've been listening to and thinking about. First off I've got in the stereo the new forthcoming release from Court And Spark. It's called Hearts and it's chock full of the off-kilter Americana freak show that I've come to expect from these hometown heroes. Initial impressions are positive. The record sounds like a good combination of the poppier moments of Witch Season and the trippier spacier moments of Ventura Whites. Many strong songs and a couple of heads scratchers but by and large I think this is an excellent record. I promise a song next week.

(edit) Just noticed that eMusic has Hearts available for download today!

We're also rapidly approaching the release of Jolie Hollands new one called Springtime Can Kill You. The record is a 12 track songcycle with the songs/stories ranging from waltzes to folk to jazz, but always anchored by Jolie's beautiful voice. Here's two:

Crazy Dreams

Spring Time Can Kill You

Also littering my listening has been Lambchop's recently released Decline of Country And Western Civilization Part 2 The Woodwind Years. It's a collection of a-sides, b-sides, out takes, and ephemera from the last dozen years or so. So many good songs on this thing. I've always liked the unclassifiable nature of Lambchop. Are they country? Are they pop? Are they lounge? What's Vic Chesnutt doing there? Really been enjoying this album.

Lambchop - Ovary Eyes

I guess there is a bit of a theme here involving understated elegant countryish pop music. Of course none of this takes into account how much I've been listening to the new Built To Spill or how I'm still stuck on Destroyer's Rubies. I'm just an indie rock nerd at heart. Have a good weekend.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Low Skies...

There's a time and a place for sad music. We all know this. Sometimes it just feels good to revel in someone else's pain, pain that's expressed through music or art or some outlet that we don't have ready access to. I love to write but I often find myself incapable of translating what I feel in my gut into sentences and punctuation marks that will invoke the same feeling in others. Good writers do it though and certainly good songwriters. I've always had an affinity for the sad sack and broken hearted. While I'm more than passingly familiar with pop's major referent points of heartbreak (be it Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan or Patsy Cline) honestly I wasn't truly affected by a heartbroken record until Richard Buckner's Devotion And Doubt. Of course that had to do as much as my situation at the time as with the heartbreaking excellence of that album. And isn't that the way things go? Music tends to pop in your life when you need it most, or maybe we're more receptive to it when we're at a point in our lives when we're a bit raw. Fortunately my skin is very much intact at this stage of my life, but a friend of mine is going through a tough time. The end of any relationship is hard, but when there's a long history and kids involved it's just so much sadder and harder. So in my round-a-bout way I guess I'm trying to give some context to Low Skies and their latest All The Love I Could Find. This is sad music tinged with Americana as so many of the best are. It rolls slow and steady. It creeps, cries and asks for no more than you listen. Maybe that'll be enough.

3 songs from All The Love I Could Find:


You Can't Help Those People

To Fail You

Friday, April 21, 2006

Power Pop Friday...

The sun it out. And that's quite a pronouncement here in San Francisco where the amount of rain we've been getting and the length of winter was beginning to touch biblical proportions. But the last 2 days seem to indicate that our much maligned and very abused Mother Nature has taken pity on us and turned things around. It pleases me to end. In order to try to reflect my good mood I'm giving you three excellent power pop tunes to listen to as I've been doing. Enjoy your friday I hope it's sunny where you are.

Ambulance LTD - Sugar Pill (Demo Version) from the New English EP

Everyday - The Pillcrushers from their latest Welcome To The World

Irving - Hard To Breathe from their recent release Death In The Garden, Blood On The Flowers

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Drive By Truckers...

Well, reviews of the DBT record A Blessing And A Curse have been pretty average. And by average I mean there are some glowing ones and some disappointed ones therefore the average would be probably be about middling. Of course some records you can trust the critics and others you just have to judge for yourself. Either that or you're a fan and you're going to buy the thing no matter what. For me DBT is important to American music for a couple of reasons: 1) they do it their way and damn the torpedoes, I've always admired that. 2) There aren't a lot of bands that play straight up rock with no tongue in cheek, with a reverence for the traditions they're mining, with passion for their songs. On that last point we could debate a list for the rest of the day I guess I'm thinking about bands like My Morning Jacket, DBT, Magnolia Electric Co., Centro-Matic, add your own. These are all bands (and single songwriters in some cases) that make records with a palpable feel to them that I can only describe as passionately desperate. I guess by that I mean that they feel as if they've been invested with everything that these bands can spare and then some: heart, soul, passion. In sports terms these guys are leaving it all on the floor, ice, field.

I've digressed again haven't I? My bottom line is that you can nitpick at Drive By Truckers' A Blessing And A Curse, make vague comparisons to their past efforts, but in the end any disappointment that one feels with this record is inevitably along the lines of "it's good but it's not Dirty South or Southern Rock Opera". And if that's the way that this debate will be framed let's just come out and say that A Blessing And A Curse is a damn good record by a band that has made fucking good records in the past. Know what I mean?

I'm feeling this.

1 from A Blessing And A Curse:


At six minutes it was too big to post but if you get a chance check out "Goodbye" on this album. Don't just listen to it once but a couple of times. Great song.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


After 2004's excellent Here Comes Everyone the boys in Aloha are back with a new disc titled Some Echoes. If you liked their last record you'll probably be salivating like one of Pavlov's dogs for this one. It's pretty much more of the same. That means more slightly proggy high end musicianship crafted into powerful rock. This time around the band's leaning a little less on the guitar and a bit more on the keys. This is probably at least in part due to the departure of their vibraphone player. That sentence just sounds weird. I can't say I loved Here Comes Everyone purely and without reservation. Sometimes the jamming got too noodly and the whole prog tone of the thing killed my buzz. But then they'd come out with a song like "Perry Como Gold" and I'd be all weak in the knees. Some Echoes is like that as well. Sometimes I'm just bored but then the band hits their stride and it's all so good.

1 from Some Echoes:

If I Lie Down

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Portugal. The Man...

Portugal. The Man is not Bars & Guitars typical. I mean I'm not usually attracted to this kind of proggy, psych rock mixed with a little R&B and indie rock vocals. I find I don't really get along with anything that sounds vaguely like someone jacking off via guitar or harmonica for that matter. I'm not a musician's listener I'm a songwriter's listener. But holy rope-a-dope this album by Portugal. The Man Waiter: You Vultures is searingly good in a kind of face melting 70's cock rock kind of want to dance type of way and if that sounds confusing it is. I've had the most success with Waiter: You Vultures when I listen without thinking. That's not easy for me. I'm always trying to make comparisons, find influences, deconstruct, reconstruct, nerdify. But Portugal. The Man insists on just being and really you should just let them. Stop arguing, this shit rocks.

2 songs from Portugal. The Man's Waiter: You Vultures:


How The Leopard Got Its Spots

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Calexico's newest Garden Ruin comes out today. I've been listening to this for a couple of weeks, though admittedly without much intensity, and I have to say I'm a bit underwhelmed. I'm a Calexico fan though not nearly as hardcore as some, but there's something missing from this record. Sure, it has some excellent moments (I wouldn't bother writing if it didn't) but there's a quality that's lacking here that was very much present in their other records. OK, so what quality is that exactly? Well, maybe not a quality as much as a feeling. Calexico has a pretty unique sound and their records have always been stylistically diverse with each album genre hopping from film soundtrack to Mariachi to Tex-Mex to Pop to Rock. It may have made the records a bit incoherent but they were always fun and had that unqualifiable element of joy that comes from a band loving their music without thought towards restraint. Garden Ruin seems much more workman like, as if the band was under a great obligation to make the next step towards indie-rock super stardom or to leave an indelible mark that says they're "important". The tone of the record is very consistent relying more on verse-chorus-verse songs and very "regular" sounding guitar, bass, drums arrangements. It just doesn't feel very adventurous and I suppose that's something I've come to expect from their records (and singing in French doesn't count as adventurous in my book).

So harsh criticism aside, it's still Calexico. And Calexico makes music that's head and shoulders above most bands out there, maybe that's why I'm a tad let down by Garden Ruin. When they get it right though they hit a home run. On songs like "All Systems Red", "Deep Down", and "Bisbee Blue", the band's talents come shining through like rays of afternoon sun through collapsing rain clouds. I just wish there was a bit more of that or enough variation to make it feel like a Calexico record and not a record by the next entrant in the Next Big Thing contest. Of course this critical little review should be weighted accordingly; I believe I hold the best bands to higher standards. Calexico's one of our best bands and while Garden Ruin kicks some serious ass it doesn't knock me out (love the pugilism metaphors).

1 song from Garden Ruin:

Deep Down

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Howe Gelb...

Howe Gelb is really a touchstone for alt-country music. While he hasn't reached the heights that, say, Ryan Adams has, not that he would want to, his labors have always been sincere and passionate. Gelb is going to do his own thing for as long as he's physically able, everyone else can fuck off. At least that's the feeling that I get. So there must be a certain satisfaction for him in the relative notoriety and fame he's garnered. Particularly his work with Calexico set a standard for a "style" of music that echoes the desert southwest.

Well, Gelb's latest is 'Sno Angel Like You in which he broadens his sound (even rerecording some songs) by adding a choir to the proceedings. Generally he shys away from the psych freak out guitar squalls that have become his signature instead relying on his songs and his flat though distinguished voice. It's a solid outing for Gelb that further cements his place in the indie rock pantheon.

2 from 'Sno Angel Like You:

But I Did Not

Nail In The Sky