Yeah, so it's May, and we're still telling you about the albums we enjoyed last year. Maybe it's just taking us that long to get our heads around them. I feel rushed when December comes and I have to tell you how I feel about an album I bought five minutes ago. How should I know how I feel about it? I don't even know it yet. This is one of those albums that took some time to get to know. On one level, it's irrepressibly indie, the kind of thing made for the blogger/tumblr/twitter culture that celebrates songs that [...]
William Elliott Whitmore's Iowa farmer perspective infuses darkly soulful songs with dirt underneath the fingers backbone that are delivered in an extraordinarily rich, booming cannon of a voice. Each song is a call to arms, inspring listener action and reaction. Reminds me of Jay Farrar's gift - sounding like an old soul frozen in a young man's body. Field Songs mark time like old time spirituals, songs of faith and promise sung by slaves to try and temporarily ease their burdens. The sparse instrumentation (a gently picked banjo, a barely strummed guitar) places the focus [...]
21 year old Lydia Loveless (who name conjures up a goth country diva) initially impressed with "Steve Earle", a fitting "tribute" that paints Earle as a stalker of sweet young things who "won't stop calling me" and "just wants to write some songs", but all she wants is for Steve "to please introduce me to your son", the ultimate backhanded compliment. And it's just the tip of the iceberg for Indestructible Machine , an album awash in that Old 97's galloping backbeat, but recasts Rhett Miller as Loretta Lynn. But mostly this album [...]
Deciding to cast aside the wonkier folk-prog pretensions that conjured dreams of 17 song suites and nightmares of Jethro Tull comparisons, The King is Dead is far and away the most inviting record The Decemberists have ever made. It also contains the best collection of melodies on any 2011 album. Sounding like a more lucid REM in their prime, songs like "January Hymn", "All Arise", "Dear Avery" and "June Hymn" all sound like instant classics. A panoply of song indeed. The Decemberists - "January Hymn" (from [...]
I hope you score that Feistodon 7" that's got Feist andMastodon covering each other. Or the Carolina Chocolate Drops/Run DMC split 7" which pairs CCD's new version of Run DMC 'sclassic "You Be Illin" with the original. Or maybe you'll splurge andget the first three groundbreaking Uncle Tupelo albums on 180 gram vinyl. Me,I'd like to get the Dave Hause and Justin Townes Earle 45's and the fun.10". But the important thing is to get out of the house today and goconverse with other humanoids. That's what Record Store Day is about (well,that and getting Feeney to perk [...]
Not the last rock and roll band, but maybe the last one with great pop instincts, in 2011 The Black Keys made the rarest kind of rock album - one that connected with the masses while remaining true to all that has always been good about a band that was once viewed as a destitute man's White Stripes.
On the album's closer, "A Little Bit of Everything," Taylor Goldsmith sings "so pile on those mashed potatoes and an extra chicken wing, I'm having a little bit of everything," and that's an apt a metaphor as there is for an album that's pure comfort food for the ears. My constant companion throughout the year, it was my most comfortable jeans, my softest leather boots, my mellowest whiskey.
Making the transition to punk rocker (as lead singer of TheLoved Ones) to singer-songwriter is difficult to pull off, but Dave Hause hasnot only done it with grace and cred intact, but has also succeeded with hisveins bulging ferocity intact. The songs on his solo debut Resolutions grapple with thatmoment when idealized notions (changing the world via punk rock) meet maturingtruths (how to marry art, family and adult obligations) in a fantastic mess offrayed nerves and still to be finished stories. Hause dials down a bit of TheLoved Ones' [...]
Dawes will not change the world, but Nothing is Wrong mightchange yours. Writing drifting, lovesick tunes about homesick blues, Dawes aretasteful to a fault. The songs are terrific, but lose some of the zip theexhilarating live shows bring. But that's a minor quibble when you're sittingon songs as good as "Time Spent in Los Angeles ","Coming Back to A Man", "Fire Away" and "MillionDollar Bill". And verses like this from "Time Spent in Los Angeles " recall early Jackson Browne, which setsthe bar extremely high: [...]
Divine Providence is the album where Deer Tick kick off their dusty boots and put on their highheel sneakers and claim the boozy, freewheeling throne The Replacementsabdicated two decades ago. Lead Tick John McCauley seems hell bent on rock androll destruction, and on the caveman-like stomp of the "The Bump" (atoo dumb to live, too smart to die update of "We're An AmericanBand") and the Westerbergian "Main Street", he bleedsand carouses enough for all of us. Deer Tick - "Main [...]
Switching effortlessly from Tex-Mex hoedowns ("BornWith A Broken Heart", "Chuchumbe") to gorgeous, plaintiveballads ("Lavender Street", "Wait For Me" and the heartbreakinglook back "The Least I Can Do") to the relentlessly upbeat "YesMaria Yes", The David Wax Museum's Everything is Saved is the year's mostapproachable and inviting album. This band is impossible not to love. Fans of Los Lobos and early Felice Brothersshould take note. The David Wax Museum - "Yes Maria Yes" (from Everything is Saved ) The David Wax Museum - "The Least [...]
Managing the neat trick of sounding simultaneously worldly wise andimpossibly naive, Ezra Furman gives Jonathan Richman a run for the money as theking of quirk. Instead of "She Cracked", Mysterious Power sounds morelike "I Cracked". Come for the cloistered optimism of "Mysterious Power" and "Fallin Love With my World" but stay for the off-the-rails punkitude desperationof "Teenage Wasteland" and "I Killed Myself but I Didn'tDie". Ezra Furman & The Harpoons - "Mysterious Power" (from Mysterious Power ) Ezra Furman & The [...]
Riding the fine line between Echo and the Bunnymen and Martha and the Vandellas, our heroine is the undisputed queen of gothic soul, like Annie Lennox updated for a new century. Fierce.
This is some sheer pop perfection. Dee Dee's voice is three parts Chrissie Hynde to one part Neko Case, and the thick dreamy production draws a few clouds across the sunny California skies. Resistance is futile.
The world's greatest rock and roll band is now one of the most consistent outfits, too, delivering one album after another of hard fatback funk and fluid flow. We don't do a lot of hip hop around here, but this one is undeniable.
It's now two weeks since SXSW ended and it's time to finallywrap up the wrap-up. We saw 50 performances in 4 days, saw legends made and othersfade. (On a side note, we aim to finishour best of 2011 before the first NFL game is played. Guaranteed, my friends.)If you've been to Austin, you want to go back. If you've been to Austin twice, you start imagining a life there. I'd live out beyond South Congress, alittle ways away from the mayhem. V would stay in Boston so [...]
Sorry about the long delay (went on vacation, got distracted, etc.). I have a good feeling that this one is going to show up close to the top of my partner's list, so I won't steal his thunder. Enjoy.
Friday - Day 3 Highlights – Two Cow Garage’s blazing, spastic take on punk rock heartland Springsteenblew out the cobwebs from the previous night – free beer did not in any wayhinder our enjoyment of this performance. J Roddy Walston & the Business barrelhouse set at South by San Josethrilled the near capacity crowd– this is a real piano led southern rock androll band that owes as much to Little [...]