Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Review: Annuals - Sweet Sister EP (* * * 1/2)

After a major label debut LP a couple years ago, Annuals return, not with another major release, but with a self-produced/self-released EP entitled Sweet Sister. I'm not sure if it's a precursor to a full-length later this year or simply a chance to release some material without outside influence, but Sweet Sister seems to have the free-spirited feeling and exploratory nature of the latter. The five songs of the EP are often stylistically similar to the group's previous effort, Such Fun, but an obvious influx of influences (along with total control over the end result) makes for some entertaining if unfocused detours here. So the album doesn't play as a cohesive statement or even establish a certain new direction for the band, but it's fun, lighthearted, and easily enjoyable - the perfect accompaniment to the approaching Spring season.

Beginning with the smooth, rhythmic opener "Loxtep," it's immediately clear that Annuals intended to widen their sonic palette a great deal here. With bright synth riffs, marimbas, and a sampled choir of children, the track should be a mess, and I suppose it could easily be labeled as such, but it's a really catchy mess and intelligently assembled as well. The title track blends similarly disparate influences to an effective result, but "Holler and Howl" abruptly switches gears to a horn and accordion-laden circus tune that bounces its way to a beautiful orchestral outro. With the exception of the lackluster "Turncloaking," the album is a good deal of fun if you don't mind the head-spinning flow of the thing, and with a sunny (and relatively normal) cover of Johnny Cash's "Flesh and Blood" to close, Sweet Sister is a treat for fans that should tide them (us) over until Annuals give us a full compliment of songs.

Loxtep (MP3)


Review: Frightened Rabbit - The Winter of Mixed Drinks (* * * 1/2)

Progress is—by most definitions—a game of give and take. In the music business, it’s nearly impossible to grow artistically or explore different musical avenues without leaving something behind. A clear illustration of such growing pains is exemplified in Scottish indie-rockers Frightened Rabbit, whose third record, The Winter of Mixed Drinks, comes two years after the band’s excellent breakthrough, the compelling and abrasively emotional Midnight Organ Fight.

Of course, much of what made the band unique remains—especially the intensely dramatic songwriting and singer Scott Hutchison’s thickly accented unstable tenor—but along with an expanding lineup (yes, they actually have a bass player now), Frightened Rabbit’s latest marks a decided turning point in the band’s trajectory. Their bigger, more arena-ready sound will surely prove to be an effective bid for mainstream audiences, and it shows an increased maturity and approachability, but in the process the boys have sacrificed some of the fragile intimacy that made their previous material so engaging. (Continue reading @ In Review Online)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Reviews in Brief: Drive-By Truckers, Rogue Wave, Morning Benders, jj

Drive-By Truckers - The Big To-Do (* * * 1/2)

Eight albums in and the Drive-By Truckers are still going strong. The Big To-Do is a little shorter and more focused than many of the band's previous efforts, and though it's also a bit less consistent there's little to really complain about as the songwriting and musicianship are mostly top notch. "The Fourth Night of My Drinking" is a typically bleak, yet insightful Truckers song, as is the dark "The Wig He Made Her Wear," but tunes like bassist Shonna Tucker's "(It's Gonna Be) I Told You So" and the rockabilly "Get Downtown" have an unusually bouncy "pop" side to them that adds much to the record's overall appeal. Aside from a couple less-than-inspired numbers, The Big To-Do is a worthy addition to this continually spectacular Southern rock group's considerable catalog. (MySpace)

Rogue Wave - Permalight (* * *)

Zach Rogue and company have had a hard go of things over the course of their fairly brief career. But in between sickness, death and major studio issues, the band continues to remain positive and release albums on a surprisingly regular schedule. Their latest, Permalight, is a smoother, more electronically-inclined release than their last albums, but though that may sound like a poor choice of direction on paper, it occasionally works very well. Granted, critics of the band's past work may not be entirely convinced by the new approach and there's some middling material here, but songs like the strong mid-album run of spacey ballad "Fear Itself," power-pop tune "Right With You" and the schizophrenic "We Will Make a Song Destroy" are quite good and evidence that there's plenty of life left in this optimistic bunch. (MySpace)

Morning Benders - Big Echo (* * * *)

After a good first album, Morning Benders are back with a decidedly better one in Big Echo. The group's second effort takes their previously basic (and a bit bland, to be honest) indie rock style and softens the edges, rounds off the corners, and puts things slightly out of focus for an impressive effect. It's mostly sunny, inviting music, with wonderful harmonies and gorgeous layers of instrumentation enhanced by the production work of Grizzly Bear's Chris Taylor, but these intelligently constructed tunes offer more than just a breezy 40 minutes of relaxation. Over 10 tunes, the record achieves the perfect balance between easy-going and labored-over, an impressive feat for a young band. Highlights from the album include the sweeping opener "Excuses," the very Grizzly Bear-esque "Promises," and the hazily beautiful "Stitches." (MySpace)

jj - jj n° 3 (* * 1/2)

Maybe it's because the mystery is gone now, or maybe this follow-up was simply too much, too soon - but whatever the reason, jj's sophomore LP feels considerably less inspired than last year's debut. The album still has a few genuinely beautiful moments, as we would expect (the compositions on "Let Go" and "Voi Parlate, Lo Gioco" are particularly striking), it's just that the nine tracks comprising this sophomore effort don't impress as completely or as often as before. In other words, jj n° 3 isn't so much a disaster as it is, unfortunately, easily ignored. jj is a group with a bright future ahead of them, though, and the talent to provide something equally brilliant if not more so than their debut. Perhaps they need a bit more time to again create something remarkable. (Let Go - MP3)

Three for...Monday: Yukon Blonde, Anais Mitchell, Treetop Flyers

Yukon Blonde

Yukon Blonde is the latest in a long line of noteworthy Canadian indie rock bands, and with their first LP I think they're well on their way to joining the upper echelon of such a group. The quartet (comprised of Jeff Innes, Brandon Scott, Adam Newton, and Graham Jones) already have an EP under their belt, and their debut full-length is even better - an eclectic and fun set of tunes that blends all sorts of genres, from folk to power-pop, but ultimately establishing a unique sound for the band that deserves a listen. Highlights like the appropriately breezy "Wind Blows," the smooth rocker "Brides Song" and the slightly twangy closer "Loyal Man" showcase the multi-layered vocal harmonies, endless hooks, and Americana-meets-indie style that makes Yukon Blonde such an appealing new outfit. I really can't imagine anyone not enjoying the music made by this talented and bunch of artists.

Rather Be With You (MP3)

Wind Blows (MP3)


Anais Mitchell

I'll admit I first checked out singer/songwriter Anais Mitchell's latest because I noticed Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver) was involved, but there's much more to Hadestown than an impressive guest list (also including Ani DiFranco and Greg Brown, among others). Hadestown is, according to Mitchell's website, "a folk opera based on the Orpheus myth and set in a post-apocalyptic American depression era," so you know it's an ambitious project to say the least. But the quality of the storytelling, the "casting" of the different characters and the engaging songs make this a truly successful concept album. Vernon's Orpheus is lonesome yet hopeful, Brown's Hades is grimy and dark, his wife (DiFranco) is enjoyably strange, and Mitchell still manages to shine among all the star power as Orpheus' lover Persephone. Hadestown is one of 2010's most unique and interesting musical experiences, making Anais Mitchell a name you need to know.


Treetop Flyers

Folk rockers Treetop Flyers released their debut EP in the Fall of last year, though I only heard about it recently and I think it definitely deserves mention here. The UK outfit's five song effort has a rootsy, Americana sound that I'm admittedly a sucker for, but the music's appeal will certainly extend beyond fans of the genre with its smooth melodies and excellent musicianship. Each song remarkable, but my favorites are 0pener "Mountain Song," a sweeping classic rock tune filled with big choruses and impressive riffs and solos, and "Is It All Worth It?," which shows the gentler side of the band with a tuneful acoustic ballad that is just as great. These guys may look to the past for inspiration (comparisons to any number of classic folk and rock artists are easy to make), but they're also well on their way to establishing themselves as a band to watch with a style that's all their own.

For an email address, you can download "Mountain Song" HERE (highly recommended)


Monday, March 22, 2010

You Should Know: Mimicking Birds

If you've heard anything about Portland trio Mimicking Birds, you know Modest Mouse frontman Isaac Brock played a big part in the recording and production of the band's full-length, self-titled debut. But if you've heard the band's music, you know there's much more to the group than their indie rock connections. Their dark, yet delicate indie folk sound is intoxicating, with frontman Nate Lacey's ethereal voice - conjuring both the softer side of Brock's own strange croon and the eerie vocals of Asthmatic Kitty newcomer DM Stith - floating over a sparse mix of acoustic guitar, bass, and light percussion. Though the group's sound doesn't vary a great deal over their first record's 40 minutes, they're remarkably effective at creating a consistently engaging experience with a relatively limited number of musical elements. And the best material is absolutely gorgeous; "In the Loop" drifts along slowly with an almost haunted atmosphere, "Burning Stars" is a warmer, more pop-oriented tune, and "Under and In Rocks" closes with a lovely, emotional ballad.

It's easy to hear the influences present in their style, but on their debut record, Mimicking Birds manage to stand well apart from both their predecessors and contemporaries. It's an album that I find myself returning to often and it holds up very well against the best material in this already strong musical year, so it goes without saying that I highly recommend checking out one of 2010's most promising new bands.

Download "Burning Stars" at RCRD LBL


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Reviews In Brief: Ted Leo, Ruby Suns, Portugal. The Man

My schedule doesn't permit me to review everything I'd like to in full, so while capsule reviews aren't an entirely fair way to evaluate an album's strengths and weaknesses, they'll give me an opportunity to give my two cents about more of this year's music. Enjoy my first set of three:

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists
The Brutalist Bricks
(* * * *)

Ted Leo and company are back in full force with their latest album, The Brutalist Bricks. Right from anthematic opener "The Mighty Sparrow," the boys sound fresh and energized, hearkening back to their best work early last decade - and over the course of 13 tracks they remain just as sharp. What's perhaps most enjoyable about the record is the way Leo so effectively and with apparent ease balances a fun-loving musical persona with lyrics that provide a good deal more emotion and insight that you'd expect from a seasoned punk-rocker. Aside from the aforementioned opener, highlights include the fierce "Mourning in America" and the rolling rocker "Where Was My Brain?," though being thoroughly stuffed with great tunes, The Brutalist Bricks is yet another accomplished effort from these rock 'n' roll mainstays.MySpace

Ruby Suns
Fight Softly (* * * *)

From what I've read around the web, indie pop outfit Ruby Suns seem to have done some alienating with their new album, Fight Softly. Granted, such a dramatic stylistic shift is sure to bring about some backlash, but I find much of the criticism of their third effort to be confusing and unfounded. True, they've lost some of the modest charm that made their previous record, Sea Lion, so likable, but in its place is a more cohesive, engaging experimental sound and songs strong enough to outweigh any negative consequences of the band's change in approach. The group blends odd song structures and spacey synthetic elements with their characteristically sharp pop hooks for some stunning results, especially the sunny and strange "Cranberry" and the ethereal "Closet Astrologer." Put simply, it's difficult to miss the old when the new is so easy to love, and Fight Softly is a definite success. MySpace

Portugal. The Man
American Ghetto (* * * 1/2)

Releasing albums at the rate of one per year for the past five years, Portugal. The Man have proved to be one of indie rock's most tireless bands, and a remarkably consistent one given their output. Once again, they offer a solid set of tunes with American Ghetto, a record that trades the sunny disposition of last year's The Satanic Satanist for a grittier, darker edge and a good deal more variety. Though the music occasionally feels a bit too familiar when compared with the band's catalog, there are enough examples of both ambition and accomplishment here to warrant a listen whether you're a fan of their other material or not. The best on American Ghetto is among the band's best - "60 Years" has an enjoyably messy groove, "All My People" is a psychedelic rocker, and closer "When the War Ends" takes a sexy page out of Of Montreal's book with excellent results. I'm already looking forward to next year. MySpace

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Review: Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me (* * * * 1/2)

Should you be inclined to make such a superficial judgment, you can tell quite a bit about a Joanna Newsom album by its cover. Her amazing debut, 2004's The Milk-Eyed Mender, is adorned with a colorful collage of drawings and photographs both personal and stridently quirky—the music follows suit. Two years later, much changed. Newsom’s sophomore effort (and most would claim her masterpiece), 2006'sYs, featured more refined, mature artwork: a detailed drawing of the singer-songwriter dressed in ornate, Renaissance-era garb displaying an air of confidence and grace. Fittingly, the album is much more lyrically and musically ambitious, and Newsom creates an otherworldly, fantastical listening experience. Four years on, the tradition continues. Joanna's third and most anticipated release, Have One on Me, features artwork of Newsom sprawled out on a couch, nearly obscured by a wealth of exotic furs and other assorted finery. Calling it “busy” would be an understatement—it’s a visual overload—but given the size and scope of this record, nothing less would be appropriate. (Read the rest @ In Review Online)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Three for Wednesday: Bridges & Blinking Lights, Polar Bear, Mighty Tiger

Bridges & Blinking Lights -

Denton, Texas rock outfit Bridges & Blinding Lights are a difficult bunch to pin down stylistically, but of course that's part of what makes them fun. I'd say "Southern shoegaze indie rock," but there's such a wealth of influences at play here it's impossible to find the perfect descriptor. So while comparisons escape me, I'll just say that you should check out the band's sophomore effort, Heroes, Guns & Snakes as soon as possible. Behind raspy-voiced singer/songwriter Jake Wilganowski, the quartet have created a more than solid rock 'n' roll record that blends pop sensibility with gritty style for strange and compelling results - like the riff-tastic opener "Undercover," the country-tinged title track, and the smoothly rolling "Great Unknown." The musicianship throughout the album is top notch, and with way the entire thing works so cohesively is notable as well, making Heroes, Guns & Snakes one of my favorite "unheard of" records I've heard this year. Get acquainted with these guys, you'll thank me for it.

Download one of my favorites, "Undercover"


Polar Bear -

To be honest, I don't know enough about jazz music to write about it intelligently, but I can certainly recommend to you English jazz quintet Polar Bear and their new album, Peepers. Polar Bear is led by percussionist Sebastian Rochford, and includes saxophonists Pete Wareham and Mark Lockheart, double bassist Tom Herbert and guitarist Leafcutter John. Some of those names may be familiar to you, though regardless of what you know about the musicians involved, the intriguing blend of traditional and free jazz elements on songs like the clattering "Drunken Pharaoh" and the more subtle, slinky "Want to Believe Anything" will likely excite any adventurous listener. It's definitely not easy going, but with each listen Peepers reveals further detail, and the immense talent of these musicians makes this a thoroughly fascinating set of tunes. Recommended for modern jazz fans or anyone looking for something unique and left of center.

Listen/Download the track "Peepers"


Mighty Tiger -

Mighty Tiger, currently hailing from Seattle, is the latest in a long line of attention-grabbing indie rock bands operating out of the Northwest. Their debut full-length, Western Theater, was recently released and is an enjoyably varied indie rock record, one that showcases the band's many talents and ideas with songs ranging from the melodic piano-pop tune "33 1/3" to the Oriental-sounding ballad "Chibi Girl" to the winding rocker "The Most American Thing in America." Though the group brings to mind a number of their alt-rock contemporaries, they also seek to establish their own personality and style throughout their first record, succeeding often enough that Western Theater feels fresh and is consistently enjoyable for its 52 minutes. With plentiful harmonies, catchy riffs and intelligently constructed tunes, Mighty Tiger is one to keep an eye on - I imagine they'll continue to impress long after this solid debut.

Download "33 1/3"


Review: Hot Chip - One Life Stand (* * *)

Three albums into their career and lovable electronica nerds Hot Chip had, for the most part, stubbornly resisted maturity, but it seems they’re finally growing up; at least, if their latest record, One Life Stand, is any indication. This is clear both lyrically—with an introspective attitude toward love and its accompanying commitments—and musically, as the record presents a more focused stylistic approach. Hot Chip obviously hope to use their fourth effort to convince us of their legitimacy as indie mainstays and not simply another compelling novelty act. This isn’t meant as a critique, of course, it’s simply an observation; and it’s likely that this will greatly factor in to your reception of their new album. The band sound like themselves, only with a wider array of electronic techniques, vocal filters, and organic instrumentation combining in the service of danceable white-boy funk. Unfortunately, the more purposeful air somehow lessens the impact and personality we’ve become accustomed to with Hot Chip. In some ways this seems necessary or even preferable, but unfortunately the costs outweigh the benefits of such advancement and One Life Stand falls shy of its mark. (Read the rest @ In Review Online)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Live Review: Fanfarlo w/ April Smith & The Great Picture Show

Urban Lounge, SLC
Saturday 2/27

I'd never been to a show at the Urban Lounge before, but the one thing I was told repeatedly about the venue is that the shows start late. And, true to the information I'd received, showing up at 9 o'clock means waiting for a full hour before the music begins. But time passes quickly as people shuffle for position and grab a beer from the bar - the atmosphere is relaxed and the setting quite casual. I'm curious about the opening act, April Smith & The Great Picture Show, as they've just recently crossed my radar. Having only heard a few songs and equipped with little information about the band, I'm eager to see what kind of impression they'll make to a crowd that I imagine is similarly uninitiated. The group is dressed to kill and each member look happy to be there, and after a sound check on a small stage crowded with instruments, they're ready to get things started.

Fortunately, April Smith and company waste no time and make good use of their opening slot, plunging right in to a set of jazzy pop tunes that win over the audience quite completely after only a few minutes. Smith's small frame belies a powerful voice, and she belts out bright melodies as the band transplants the venue back about 6o years with their classic, bluesy style. With each passing song the crowd loosens up a bit more, and eventually there's plenty of dancing and clapping along with the music while those on stage continue smiling and joking throughout their 40 minute set. The group's energy is infectious and their talent easy to appreciate as they play everything from a sassy, anti-valentines day song to unabashed love anthems, and it all ends far too soon even with the thought of hearing from Fanfarlo later (though it makes the parting more bearable). I'm thoroughly impressed; I make a note to check out more from April Smith & The Great Picture Show as soon as I'm home.

April Smith MySpace

Fanfarlo doesn't take the stage until well after 11, but the energy in the room hasn't dissipated - only increased along with the size of the crowd. The quintet, looking distinctly British against this very American setting, have a nervous energy about them and look somehow younger than I expected, but their music immediately makes it clear that their considerable musicianship and performing ability is going to make for a great show. Kicking off with "Drowning Man" and continuing into Reservoir opener "I'm a Pilot," the group's sound fills the room completely, making the club feel far to small to contain the anthematic choruses and gorgeous harmonies that characterize the band's style. Fanfarlo don't talk much, but they seem pleased with the good reception they're getting from the crowd and come across as warm and personable when they do speak. It's just obvious that they'd rather have the music do the communicating, and it indeed speaks volumes to this very eager audience.

Popular favorites from their debut album, "Harold T. Wilkins" and "The Walls Are Coming Down," are especially effective, though my personal highlight occurs when they play the beautifully melodic "Finish Line" halfway through the set and execute the song to perfection, and with that special energy you can only convey in a live performance. Their set feels a little short (probably 45 minutes or so), but they're quick to give an encore after a sustained and enthusiastic cheer from all of us, and given both the hour and the quality of the performances thus far, nobody feels much like complaining. I had entered this evening with high hopes and now found them surpassed as I headed for the door. One of my favorite up-and-coming bands from last year had more than lived up to my expectations, and I'd been given a fantastic introduction to an exciting new group as well. A memorable evening, to say the least.

Fanfarlo MySpace

(sorry, no good pictures from the show for you!)

Monday, March 8, 2010

You Should Know: Erland and The Carnival

Singer/songwriter Erland Cooper, multi-instrumentalist Simon Tong (previously of The Verve, Blur, etc.) and drummer David Nock have recently released a very interesting album under the moniker Erland and The Carnival, and they have definitely caught my attention. The band is unusual in that many of the songs on their first record are covers of old English and Scottish folk tunes, or were at least inspired by traditional poetry, songwriting and music. I would imagine the trio retains at least some of the feeling and style that the original artists intended with their eerie, 60s-eque folk approach (though I can't say for certain, these references are fairly obscure to an American boy), but the album still manages to sound modern (and quite strange) while reaching deep into the musical past. No matter how much you know about Erland and The Carnival, however, the excellent musicianship and superb vocal performances alone make this a set of tunes anyone can and should appreciate.

Highlights are especially prevalent during the first half of the album. Opener "Love Is a Killing Thing" begins delicate and spare, but eventually swells into a climax of squealing guitar and pounding drums, while "You Don't Have to Be Lonely" and "The Derby Ram" carry their taught pace throughout, with Cooper's darkly-tinged tenor and plentiful vocal harmonies floating over musical elements both old and new. I'm finding it difficult to describe or compare to anything I've heard before, but the unique combination of folk, pop, and rock 'n' roll that defines Erland and The Carnival is thoroughly engrossing. While so many bands simply copy and paste from their influences, it's refreshing to hear a group that can craft something genuinely distinctive even as they borrow heavily from previous artists (albeit lesser known ones on most accounts). One of this year's most interesting releases, the debut album from this talented trio leaves me with the feeling that I've much more to discover if I'm willing to explore, and that's an oddly satisfying feeling.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Three for Wednesday: Zeus, Locksley, Elaine Lachica

Zeus -

Zeus, the band, was born from the longtime friendship of Mike O'Brien and Carlin Nicholson, who were/are members of Broken Social Scene member Jason Collett's touring band. Also featuring Rob Drake and Neil Quin, the Canadian rock quartet just released their debut full-length, entitled Say Us, an accomplished first effort and a really fun rock 'n' roll record. Blending all sorts of pop-rock elements - from sharp, Strokes-esque riffs to the driving piano-pop of New Pornographers - these guys create an eclectic yet somehow still focused set of 12 tracks that I've been unable to stay away from for long. Highlights include the jangly "Kindergarten," the bluesy pop tune "The Renegade," and joyfully sunny "Marching Through Your Head," but there are 12 very good reasons to hear Say Us as soon as possible.


Locksley -

Judging by the second effort from Madison, Wisconsin natives Locksley, these guys know how to have a good time. Be In Love is a hook-filled blast of British Invasion-inspired rock that starts off with a bang and rarely slows to less than fifth gear throughout 37 minutes, providing plenty of great pop moments along the way. By design, this is fairly lightweight music - more style than depth or substance - but there's nothing wrong with that and there's no denying the talent that the boys bring to these fun-loving tunes. The energetic guitar lines, playful lyrics, and sunny harmonies make tunes like the cheery "Darling, It's True" and the enjoyably wild "The Whip" about impossible not to love. I'll be both surprised and disappointed if we don't start hearing more about these guys very soon.


Elaine Lachica -

If her press page is to be believed (I see no reason why it shouldn't), Elain Lachica has been making music (piano, violin, and singing) since age 3. Apparently all that time and practice has paid big dividends, evident on her third and recently released effort, I Think I Can See the Ocean. Lachica is a gifted songwriter, singer and musician with an unusual, distinctive edge that sets her music apart from her contemporaries and her new album is a strikingly diverse one, a mixture of disparate elements that is not only fascinating but manages to somehow coalesce into a engaging whole. From the jazzy, piano and horn-led "Tumbleweed" to the grandiose "Jinx the Line" to loud, spacey "Rapture," Lachica never stays in one place for long, but for the adventurous, I Think I Can See the Ocean will be a great find indeed.

Bewilder (MP3)

Behind My Mind (MP3)


You Should Know: Joe Pug

So Joe Pug has been around for a couple years, but I've unfortunately been missing out on this talented songwriter until just recently when I heard his debut full-length, The Messenger. that wasn't for lack of effort on Pug's part, however. After moving to Chicago he started recording songs, sending out two-song CD-Rs (an estimated 15,000!) and has an EP available on his website for free (link below) - and people began to take notice. His musical approach is a familiar and well worn one, a simple folk style with a lyrical focus, but as Pug is a gifted musician and writer, it's surely the best way to showcase his talents.

The Messenger features a slightly more polished, produced sound than his earliest work, but Pug keeps the focus right where it belongs, on his acoustic guitar, mournful harmonica and world-weary voice. Highlights include the quiet but tense tale "How Good You Are," the banjo-led "The Door Was Always Open," and the surprising rocker that closes the record, "Speak Plainly, Diana." You'll hear echoes of many songwriting greats in Pug's vocal and lyrical style, but his music feels completely natural and true to the man behind it, so The Messenger never feels borrowed or tired. With such a strong first effort, Pug will certainly turn heads and set the bar high for himself in the future as a songwriter to watch, but that's pressure I imagine he'll handle just fine.

For an email address, you can download the In the Meantime EP for free HERE (highly recommended!)


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Review (Reposted): Patty Griffin - Downtown Church (* * * *)

After a consistently impressive start to any career, an artist tends to earn enough goodwill to try something different; a concept album, an unusual collaboration or new genre, for instance. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should, and for every successful foray into the previously unexplored there have been innumerable disasters. Granted, when you consider the dependably fantastic Patty Griffin’s latest effort, a gospel record fittingly labeled Downtown Church, it doesn’t seem so removed from her previous works (especially her last album, 2007’s wonderful Children Running Through). Her country-folk straddling aesthetic and continuing progression as a singer would seem to lend itself somewhat to gospel music, but there are still risks associated with her taking an album in a direction that many might see as alienating or easy to dismiss as an indulgent gimmick. (Continue Reading @ In Review Online)

Review: Shearwater - The Golden Archipelago (* * * *)

With their sixth effort, it’s unlikely Shearwater will impress many of their skeptics; The Golden Archipelago sounds a great deal like the beautifully executed albums that came before. But there’s something to be said for the refining of one’s sound rather than attempting to reinvent it, and the band has managed to create something that feels unique to their catalogue due to their continued commitment toward producing an album, as opposed to just a collection of singles. This approach is once again made evident in the perfectly sequenced ebb and flow of the songs comprising this record’s 38 minutes. It’s remarkable, then, on an album that seeks for complete harmony and cohesion, that there are perhaps more potential singles here (a relative term, of course) than there have been on any prior Shearwater release. It doesn’t have the dynamic range of 2008’s Rook, but the somewhat faster pace makes for a more immediate listen. The songs are more concise in structure, so while it isn’t actually much shorter than the group’s other records, it feels tighter and more manageable. (Continue Reading @ In Review Online)