Friday, October 31, 2008

Those Haunting Walkmen

Something odd, one might say spooky, happened to me a week or so ago. See, this summer good friend Wobs started dishing me discs byThe Walkmen starting with Bows and Arrows and A Hundred Miles Off. And truth be told I wasn't getting it . . . at all. I kept wanting lead singer Hamilton Leithauser to drop the vocals down an octave from the high-pitched wailing and was really wishing that the guitars would occasionally chill out with all the electric strumming going on--and yet I kept listening off and on.

Then this You & Me came out this year and I was hearing a track here and there and reading favorable reviews and thought that perhaps this was the album that would unlock these boys for me. Sure enough my source brought me that disc as well and I started listening to it and my first reaction was "better" but I was still unsure. But I kept listening, more, perhaps because as Jason Crock over at Pitchfork notes, You & Me isn't as hard or immediate as the band's earlier records, but that's not a complaint; its sound is coy, and invites you to spend time with it.” I was. And then all of the sudden as I had this moment where literally my listening turned from curious to, hey I really like this. I went back to the previous albums and had the same reaction. It was really quite odd as it literally happened in a split second like a conversion and I can’t really remember that ever happening before.

Not to get into too much musical psychoanalysis here, but I think a key thing was letting go and not fighting the flow of the music. I kept seeking resolution—that the guitars were going to come off those chords, or Leithauser was going to end that next line on an appropriate third or fifth lower to resolve a phrase of sometimes down right monotone wails. And once that happened then the musical structure and sound all seemed to make sense with the lyrics seeming to float slowly by over somewhat faster happening events in the background—like listening to music while watching the world fly by outside a train window.

It also made me start paying more attention and appreciate the differences in albums and songs rather than being overly focused on the similarity of sound. You start to hear their penchant for shuffle, cha-cha, and flamenco beats (and woodblocks that keep popping up along with a few other surprising instruments). The albums are definitely different in their attitude with Bows and Arrows have the most rocking going on and You & Me being the most melodic and ballad oriented (leaving A Hundred Miles Off squarely and perhaps most interestingly in the middle). But still I find myself most attached to You & Me.

Here are a few samples. Not sure if The Walkmen will ever be thought of as “pop” but I imagine “The Rat” from Bows and Arrows has been heard by a considerable number of people (most likely mashed together in a club with really loud music). I like it becasue it has a certain Waterboys big music feel to me. Louisiana” from A Hundred Miles Off is one of the more unique sounding tunes given the funky beat and horns (although I wouldn’t call this song “typical”). Lastly two tunes from You and Me which were the two tunes that were playing during my transformation and that I think are quite wonderful—particularly “Four Provinces.” And while these are each different in style I think they capture these guys quite well as they all have that very distinct guitar driven sound with Leithauser's lyrics quietly wailing over top.  
If you aren’t by chance familiar with The Walkmen, may your journey with them be as mysterious and fund as mine has been.

The Rat (Buy Album)
Louisiana (Buy Album)
Canadian Girl
Four Provinces (Buy Album)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Music Video Extravaganza!

As if the economy wasn’t bad enough, MTV has launched a video archive of all those great videos you remember from back in the day which will surely lead to decreased employee productivity as we all sit at our desk watching videos rather than doing whatever--not to mention a renewed round of Rickrolling that is sure to ensue!  But really, we can’t be blamed for wanting to jump back a few (or many) years to check out videos that remind us of high school or college can we?  For me, one of the early videos that I remember seeing a lot and that I loved was this one.

Now even if you love that song and that video as nostalgically as I do, you might be saying, what does this futuristic-Mad-Max world have to do with the lyrics of that song?  Well, that is the kind of question that is now making Dustin Mclean famous.  You see Dustin not only asked the question, "What if we actually wrote lyrics about what was actually happening in the video and sang those to the song’s real music?" he is making those videos. Here is the first effort which, if like me, you are behind the times and haven’t seen yet, get ready to chortle your behind off (and be singing “Take Me On” to yourself all day).

You can read more about Dustin at his site—where you can also see the second effort, a version of “Head Over Heels” by Tears for Fears.

Hat tip to IndieMuse, 50 Cent, and, of course, Wobs for keeping up on all the really important news like literal videos!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Here Comes These United States

This post has been sitting in the mental waiting room for a while and for whatever reason I have just not gotten around to it until now. I am sure you are all relieved that I finally have!

Washington DC-based These United States appear to be a bit unknown at this point--they don't even appear to have a Wikipedia page at this point (c'mon TUS fans, get with it!). Metacritic which is so on the ball it already has reviews up of The Cardinals album that was released yesterday doesn't have an entry for the new TUS album, Crimes, even though it has been out for a couple months--although they do have reviews on the first TUS album (and to be fair that album also came out this year only months before Crimes). And yet I feel a bit behind the times since there are a host of bloggers I follow who took a gander at this album some time ago. I guess the important part here is that just about everyone who has heard this second effort is positive on it--including yours truly. So let's get to it.

First off, I think you generally have to be into lyrics to like TUS--either that or you have to be someone who is totally oblivious to lyrics--although that is hard on this album much as it would be, say on a Dylan album. I am not saying that TUS frontman Jesse Elliott is Dylan (why ever make that comparison), but rather that the writing is integral to the tunes here. The lyrics are full of rich imagery with cultural and literary references that on one level seem to make sense and on another seem to make you wonder what Elliott is really after. Just to give you a sense, a quick scan of the songs on this album gives us references to Cain and Abel, Dionysus, Don Quixote, Samuel Clemens, Atlantis, the Big Blue Ox and John Chapman, and the topics are equally diverse. Overall though the lyrics are interesting and engaging.

Of course it helps that they are set musically in a sound that I can only described as laid-back rock. It has a certain southern blues feel to it, although Elliott's voice and the voice treatment could make you think of Beck. Ultimately, you feel like they are rockin' but no they couldn't be bothered to get up off the couch while they were playing. I actually mean this in a really positive way--it has that feeling of front porch blues overlaid with some indie tendencies. They seem very comfortable with the sound and it has a certain effortless feel and the band sounds really responsive to each other. And all that said, I would really love to see them live as I suspect there isn't much lying about involved in their shows.

And so ultimately, I suspect that there is a lot more coming about These United States. It is hard to know just what to share from this album as I would say it would take at least five songs to give you a sense of it all. Two of my favorites are "Susie at the Seashore" and "Honor Amongst Thieves" which you can check out at those respective links, so I am going to sample three other tunes that I think capture the album.

First is the opening track "How the West Was Won" which sets a great tone for the album--first tracks are so important to me--and really shows off Elliott's lyrical ability. Next to give you a sense of their slower, blues sound is "We Go Down to the Corner" which slowly builds to great resolution as Elliott croons "cheer up, baby, cheer up" and finally "Six Fast Bullets" which has a great laid back sound and the wonderful lyrical warning "I have six fast bullets but only five complaints!" Watch out if you don't want to complete that equation.

How the West Was Won  (Buy Album)
We Go Down to the Corner
Six Fast Bullets (Five Complaints)

Oh, and as a bonus, I switched players (hat tip to Nelson over at Fifty Cent Lighter) which means that if you just start the player on the first song it will play all the tracks as they appear. Good times!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Random Song Heard in Public (RSHIP)

So, I was already to post on the most recent effort by These United States, but I can't get the ole to upload my files. So in the meantime, let me initiate a new feature designed totally as filler for when I don't have time to write anything of substance but I don't want to disappoint you for taking the time to stop by.

The first part of this idea came to me while I was getting morning coffee at the local coffee shop (not Starbucks!) earlier this week and found myself subjected to this song which I feared would be in my mind all day (I was right). The second part came to me today when Lisa B. linked to this site by a woman who draws something she bought each day and I thought that the idea of sharing just a simple daily experience was cool and perhaps the quintessential motivation behind the blogging experience. Et voila! Random Song Heard in Public (RSHIP). However, since I couldn't bring myself to subject you to Laura Branigan, I give you this tasty little tune from the Police heard while getting soup at Au Bon Pain--Pasta e Fagoli for those who care. Looking forward to your random comments on this first random song.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The NBC Jingle: Flaming Lips Style

How to improve a night of The Office and 30 Rock? This 8 second NBC jingle promo will probably do the trick. And check out Wayne Coyne on Guitar Hero while showing off his techno-gizmo that makes cool sounds--one man's toy . . .

Hat tip to Indie Muse.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Now We're Cookin' / Squirrel Nut Zippers

The Squirrel Nut Zippers are favorite cookin' music here at the home of the TR. We have a saying at our house (in the fall or winter at least) that if it is Saturday night, it must be risotto. And tonight was no exception. Tonight's risotto (given that the Artist has recently realized that he likes animals so much he isn't down with eating them so much) focused on some nice smoked mozzarella to make a creamy risotto topped with some garden fresh tomatoes and parsley accompanied by a nice salad with fresh apples and pine nuts and of course a nice Tuscan red for the grown ups--mmmm.

Of course, risotto takes a lot of stirrin and the Squirrel Nuts are just the band for stirrin and swingin. Here are some perenniel favorites from three of their best that we like to have on while we are coookin.

The Inevitable Squirrel Nut Zippers (Buy Album)
Danny Diamond
I've Found a New Baby
Plenty More

Hot!  (Buy Album)

Put A Lid On It>
Bad Businessman

Perennial Favorites (Buy Album)
Ghost of Stephen Foster
Evening at Lafitte's

Friday, October 24, 2008

Star Maker Machine Match Game

Just cause I think this is cool--that's why. For those of you who haven't had the pleasure of perusing the great Star Maker Machine, you should . . . but wait! First, read the rest of this post since if you go there first the following game will be, well, neither challenging nor fun!

You see Start Maker Machine is a group music blog with a twist. Each week or so the group bloggers are charged with blogging on a theme. Now this could be kind of lame if it weren't for two things. First, SMM has a solid group of bloggers with eclectic tastes and a solid footing in the tunes (not to mention that they do a really nice job on the photo selections). And second, the themes are really fun.

My favorite theme so far was the "2:42" theme in which bloggers were challenged to blog on songs of that exact length. This week's theme "Adjective Noun" (in which each blogger must "post songs whose titles consist of an adjective and a noun, in that order") is generating some solid posts that I think show why SMM is so fun to track. So just for fun below I have listed the songs up at SMM for this theme and the artists--but mixed up. Take a gander, or if you are really ambitious, print it off and see how many you can match-up (yes, I know there is probably some widgetity-thig-a-ma-gig that would allow me to create an online match game--whatever!).

Think TankPeter Gabriel
Dire WolfThe Rolling Stones
Malted MilkButthole Surfers
True ColorsCaitlin Cary and Thad Cockrell
Red RainCake Like
Simple GirlWhiskeytown
Dumb FunPentangle
Yellow TaxiJohn Hiatt (or) Roseanne Cash
Bourgeois BluesRichard Hell and The Voidoids
Silver BellJohnny Zamot (or) Herbie Hancock
Blank GenerationDavid Allen Coe
Haitian DivorceJeru the Damaja
Big NothingCyndi Lauper
Sunny SkiesMax Stalling
Second OptionJuliana Hatfield
Wandering StarBob Dylan
Bum LegRandy Newman
Human CannonballRobert Johnson
Pink BedroomBeck
Tennessee WhiskeyMatt Costa
Fat MamaRandy Newman
Cruel SisterSteely Dan
16 DaysElliott Smith
Graycoat SoldiersPrescott Curlywolf
Mental StaminaJames Taylor
Idiot WindNorman Blake
Hollow LogPossessed by Paul James
Short PeoplePatty Griffin
Brown SugarLucero

Okay, now you can head over to Star Maker Machine to check it out.
Update: There are already two new tunes added to the theme: "High Water" and "Cold Turkey"--extra bonus points if you can name who sings those songs.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Different Kind of Fiddle

So I know you all have been counting the days until the new Ryan Adams disc comes out hours until I finally put up that post on the viola d’amore before I got distracted by AC/DC. Well, wait no more.

All kidding aside, today we feature a really fine new album, D'Amore, by Garth Knox. The title refers not to "love" (although perhaps you may hear that here) but rather to the varied set of pieces on this disc that are played on the viola d’amore. So first things, first, what is a viola d’amore? The short answer is that it is a viola with an extra set of sympathetic strings that are not played, but rather resonate when the main strings are played. According to the Viola d’amore Society of America (yup, there is one):

The majority of violas d'amore have fourteen strings -- seven playing strings and seven additional resonating or sympathetic strings that go through the bridge and between the fingerboard and neck of the instrument, held by individual pegs in the elongated pegbox. The sympathetic strings are most often tuned to the same pitches as the playing strings. Instruments exist with different combinations of playing strings (four, five, six, and seven) and sympathetic strings (from four up to fourteen).
Knox plays the standard seven-six string v. d’amore on this outing and is ably accompanied by Agnes Vesterman on cello on the majority of the pieces which range from 17th century baroque to traditional Celtic songs to more modern compositions including one by Knox himself. There are certainly differences among these pieces as he moves from period to period and genre to genre, but the arrangements and pacing and the deepness of the playing both by Knox and Vesterman hold the whole set together.
The fullness of these pieces is amazing given that there are only two instruments and I hope that readers who are more oriented to other genres (especially you all who love to hear violins in other settings such as country and alt-country) will give these a listen. As the reviewer over at Gramophone notes, "this is quite simply one of the most outstandingly magical discs I have heard." True, true.

Prima Lezione (the Adante movement)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

This Interruption in Our Regular Programming brought you by AC/DC

I am far behind in writing about discs I am listening to and tonight I had every intention of writing about a new viola d'amore-oriented-disc (I am such a tease!).  However, I got distracted by Alllison Stewart's Washington Post review of the new AC/DC album Black Ice. That is right AC/DC has a  new album out!

This is not a promotion for the new effort--I haven't heard a single track--and in some ways I am a little hesitant to talk about any album that is only being sold at "Wal-we will close a store before we give employees any voice by allowing a union here-Mart."  Still, this review just cracked me up and made me want to share.  

For those who can't be bothered with hopping over to the WaPo site to read the whole review, here are some highlights (which like the previews to a bad movie are really all you need to see), but I really should start by pointing out that Stewart assesses this album as the "best record the band has made in decades, and not only because all the other ones were pretty terrible."
Frontman Brian Johnson and guitarist Angus Young carry "Black Ice" on their backs: Johnson, now 61 (!), sings more and hollers less; Young, who seems more engaged than usual throughout, occasionally plays slide guitar. These might not seem like noteworthy developments, but for a band as resistant to innovation as this one, baby steps matter. [snip]

Its lyrics aren't worth mentioning, except to note that there are some, and they're the usual mix of cheerful incomprehensibility and innuendo-laden buffoonery. [snip]But mostly, "Black Ice" contains songs about rocking. Specifically, about how much AC/DC rocks, how much it's rocked in the past and how, if given the opportunity, it plans to rock some more in the future. Even the song about a wartime something or other ("War Machine") seems to be about a really rocking war machine. [snip]

The band's now de rigueur sex songs (forget "You Shook Me All Night Long"; AC/DC long ago stopped writing about women unless it had to) sound increasingly like Mad Libs: haphazard assemblages of a noun, a verb, the word "she" and a euphemism for "penis." [snip]

These, um, love songs are increasingly self-parodic, detailing amorous encounters so improbably hazardous ("She wanna shake you/No way to save you/She's got me shot/I'm fallin' ") you'll be tempted to wonder if anyone in the band has actually ever met a woman. They contribute to the dragginess of the disc's last half, as does "Decibel," the most generic AC/DC song of all time. "Black Ice" has 15 songs, which is about five too many: After its pulverizingly pleasurable first half, it's all filler and very little killer.

Someday I hope to write this entertaining of a piece about an album.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Catching Up With Kasey Chambers

It is probably safe to say that I don't own very many albums that would be clearly categorized as "country" with some exception and when you say Australian artist, I tend to think of INXS or AC/DC (yes, I am of that generation), so this post is a bit out of my usual focus. However, both Payton and Nelson have both been writing about Kasey Chambers lately, in part because of her new album Rattlin' Bones (with hubby Shane Nicholson). Given that I like both of their sensibilities (Payton's and Nelson's that is), I decided it would be good to check this Australian alt-country rocker out. Of course, as is my way, I went back to one of the earlier efforts that boys gave high praise.

So let's just cut to the chase, Barricades and Brickwalls is a great album (do I get to say that having started by saying I don't have a lot of country?). It is all country from tough blues driven rock-oriented blues to honky-tonk to bluegrass. KC's vocals are wonderful ranging from a twangy country girl fresh of the mountain to a gritty-you-ain't-gonna-mess with me guitar playing woman. If you haven't heard any KC as I hadn't, I would recommend starting where I (and probably many others have) with this album. And I will definitely be looking into her new album and others.

Here I am going to give you three tracks from B&B that show her stylistic range. First, the great bluesy opening and title track of the disc followed by a slow country song about the, um, country (that might be the only song I have that includes a reference to "dingoes") and finally a great bluegrass feeling country tune with all the classic instrumentation and harmonies.

Barricades and Brickwalls
Nullarbor Song
Still Feeling Blue

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Those Pale Young Gents

I first heard a track from the Pale Young Gentlemen's second disc Black Forest (tra la la) all of two weeks ago and since that time, the number of reviews has exploded. This is of course not exceptional for a new album, but as I am new to PYG, I have been reading a lot of them and trying to glean some common threads in the reviews. Here are a few.

Lots of comparisons to The Decemberists (although I find the D's to be much more rock-oriented) and also to Beirut--a band I need to learn more about. Not sure these hold, but the basic point here is that you have in PYG a group of classically influenced artists playing indie music--or a group of indie musicians striving for a classical sound. I am not sure which. Part of the result is a lot of descriptions of their music as having a gypsy, eastern-European sound. Yeah, I guess--sort of. I hear it more as a string quartet who met an acoustic punk/folk rock guitar player and they decided to form a band.

The general sense is that this second album is solid with the real highlights being the upbeat tunes which strike most as more similar to their first self-released album which I read described in more than one place as "rollicking." As a result, the most common complaint is that this album has a few too many mid-tempo pieces that blend together. I agree that the up-tempo pieces are the highlights, but in part because they pop out among the others. Perhaps a couple more would create a more balanced album, but I quite like how tra la la holds together as the slower tempo tunes have their own distinct nature that you get with listening to the album a number of time. (Have I said that I like albums that change/improve with listening and that too often I find reviews feeling like someone listened once and sat down to write? I do.)

And finally, while many seem a bit fraught about this album, they all want so badly to like it as part of PYG's growing and rich oeuvre--and they want readers to like this band and hope that this is a band that has a long future. Me too. But one way or the other I suspect that however these musicians go forward, whether together for a long while or spreading out and spawning other groups, they will be playing fine music for years to come.

I am going to give you two cuts here that appear next to each other on the album. The first, a slower introspective piece that characterizes much of the album followed by the cut that seems to be the agreed upon "hit" of the album which is hard to disagree with--in fact, I don't. Enjoy.

Goldenface, Morninglight
The Crook of My Good Arm

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Parental Warnings

This weekend will be spent with my parents who are visiting to help put some finishing touches on the will-it-ever-be-finished basement-refinish project, so blogging here in The Room will be on hiatus until next week. But speaking of parents, I will leave you parents, grandparents or anyone else who will have any children in their house this weekend with this challenge.
  1. Get all the children you have in the house (the more the better) around the computer.
  2. Turn the volume on your computer up as loud as it will go--trust me, this is a requirement.
  3. Play the title track from Kimya Dawson's latest kid CD.
  4. See if you make it all the way through the not-quite-a-minute-long song before the laughter is too loud to hear the end.
  5. Please record how you did in the comments (but please don't blame me for any embarrassing singing about farts, butts or other silly words in public by those who chose to play this for--children or adults!).

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Autumn with the Nuttree

The weather is turning. The track of the sun is getting southerly and creating those great slanted shadows. The air is starting to have that crisp feeling and the hint of leaves turning has begun. It is the time of year that turns my musical interests to listening to jazz and thinking about wandering through the streets of the city to a jazz club to hear some swinging music while sipping on something in a tall, cool glass--or these days at least trying to create that atmosphere even while the boys are running around like maniacs at home. And here is a nice new disc to help create that atmosphere.

The Nuttree Quartet is John Abercrombie (g) Jerry Bergonzi (ts) Adam Nussbaum (d) and Gary Versace (B3) and the new(ish) disc is Standards which is a solid disc of (mostly), well, standards with a few more jazz-fan oriented pieces (by standards writers) thrown in. The majority of tunes are played by the full quartet although there are a couple trio settings as well that mixes things up nicely. The musicians are all proven performers in their own right. In fact, in one sense, it is tempting to see the disc as too straightforward and too standard--what's new about four veterans playing standards afterall. But that is a mistake.

As Ken Micallef notesin the Downbeat review: "Playing standards may be as old as Job, but what better way for modern-day masters to weigh in on the state of the art?" And they weigh in nicely.

For the most part the arrangements are upbeat and free-flowing with Bergonzi’s tenor often taking the lead pass. His sound is big but not overbearing at all. The solos are fluid and a nice mix between lyrically driven riffs and a bit more free-ranging takes—although this is always pretty straight-forward jazz. Abercrombie’s smooth guitar, both as part of the rhythm section and in his solos, serves as a nice counterbalance to the bigger sax sound and Nussbaum is on the mark throughout whether on brushes or driving the more upbeat pieces where I think he really excels.

If I have one reservation it is the B3 parts—not because I don’t like the B3 (I. in fact, love it) or even because I don’t think Versace does some nice work here. When I saw the line-up for this album, I was imagining the album being a bit more driven by the B3 and since Versace is in more of a traditional rhythm section role here (with some notable solo exceptions) I almost wish they went all acousitic here, but that is a minor note in an otherwise perfectly enjoyable effort.

I am going to give you three real standards here to sample. Although keep in mind that there are a some more chilled out pieces mixed in with tunes like these.

Our Love Is Here To Stay
All Or Nothing At All

Who’s Left?

Add the Foo Fighters to the list of bands who have told the McCain campaign to quit using their music—actually I think they said stop “perverting” and “tarnishing” their music.

“It’s frustrating and infuriating that someone who claims to speak for the American people would repeatedly show such little respect for creativity and intellectual property. The saddest thing about this is that ‘My Hero’ was written as a celebration of the common man and his extraordinary potential,” the Foo Fighters said in a statement. “To have it appropriated without our knowledge and used in a manner that perverts the original sentiment of the lyric just tarnishes the song. We hope that the McCain campaign will do the right thing and stop using our song — and start asking artists’ permission in general!”

Sunday, October 5, 2008

What Say Ye? Ben Folds Open Thread

Okay, so I got no pony in this race, but there seems to be a bit of a debate about the new Ben Folds album, Way to Normal. Lets start with the very positive Paste review which provides this heavy duty artistic comparison.

[T]hese 12 songs are more of an anthropological study of aberrant human behavior, idiosyncratic news stories and bizarre chapters of the musician’s own autobiography, all observed with the same unstinting absurdist eye as J.D. Salinger when he penned Nine Stories more than 50 years ago.

Piling on, PopMatters suggests that Folds “is writing and performing music as if he has something to prove again” and that he “has given us something to talk about again with an album that works, front to back, on both musical and lyrical levels.”

But the discussion out there isn’t all positive. Spin weighs in noting that “Folds is incapable of mediocrity, but Way to Normal comes way too close.” And David over at IndieMuse goes even further by suggesting that Folds’ new album is “not worth your time.” And while he hypothesizes that one reason might be that Folds is old (hey! says this 44-year old) he also notes that Folds can still write a great pop song. As evidence, he highlights “You Don’t Know Me” from the new album which features Regina Spektor—a tune Lisa B. has been displaying in her sidebar for a while, although I don’t know if that has to do with Folds, Spektor or both.

Still there is no doubting that Folds can write a great pop tune. Below I give you the 1999 hit “Army” which makes me smile (and pause) every time I hear it and a live version of “Smoke” which is based on a wonderful conceit. But hey, as I said at the start, no pony in this race: what say ye?


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Now We're Cookin' / Michael Franti and Spearhead

On my iPod there is a very important playlist called "Now We're Cookin'" which is a list of toe-tappin, feel-good (okay, my favorite) tunes to have playing in the kitchen while the weekend dinner prep is on. And can I say that this playlist just got a whole lot more fun for having picked up the latest Michael Franti and Spearhead disc All Rebel Rockers.

Sure this album isn't one that is going to be so critically acclaimed that I will be hearing my grandchildren play it and wondering where music went wrong, but dang, it is a bunch of fun. It has so much going on it is hard to know where to start. It opens with a slow-burning reggae tune but then jumps into a whole variety of funkilicious, rappy, skaful and soulful pop dance music that it is hard to resist. Even when the lyrics are a bit simple and corny (really, who say's frickin' on a rock album), it is impossible to resist the beat of these tunes.

As PopMatters notes, some of what you have here is just a bit too preachy, but mostly it just really makes you feel like music is a positive force in the world even when it is critical. And you feel like the celebration that is this music might just have the power to make people think differently about the world we face--probably not, but then I listen to "Hey World" and I think, well, maybe! In fact, the first time I heard that cut--I thought now there is a good theme song Obama (except for the whole angry black man thing).

Here is that opening slow burner, followed by my proposed BHO theme tune and finally the most delightful dance tune on the disc. So get ready to boogie and stir the stew with Spearhead.

Rude Boys Back In Town
Hey World (Remote Control Version)
Say Hey (I Love You)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Three to Consider: Women Folk

Here are three for you to consider--all women singer/songwriters with a folk bent. One I have, one I have other albums by but not the one up for discussion here, and one I know nothing about (but am still willing to write about!).

First up is the newish album, She Ain't Me, from Carrie Rodriguez--her second, and by all accounts her attempt to shift out of her cowgirl-fiddler image. Now I am new to Rodriguez so I don't come to this album with any comparisons to her first album, but I have a sneaky suspicion from reading a variety of "polite reviews" about her efforts at transformation here that I might be a bigger fan of her first effort where the fiddle and her country orientation was more prominent. The strongest songs on this album for me involve that fiddle, although there are definitely some other nice pieces as well. Ultimately, the disc is a bit too generic for me and I can see passing over this disc on my way to Emmylou, Lucinda, or Union Station--probably unfair, but true. Still it has some nice moments and if this is your preferred genre, you will certainly enjoy it. Below I give you one of the fiddle-oriented pieces.

Next up is the new one from Dar Williams. I don't have this one, but I have a couple older DW efforts--although nothing more recent than the 1997 release End of Summer. Below is the opening cut from the new album, Promised Land. "It's Alright" is a solid tune both musically and lyrically if not all that adventuresome--but here is the thing. My previous DW purchases have been based on hearing a couple tracks that are wonderful ("February" on Mortal City can still make me cry) only to find out that they don't really represent the whole album. She has some absolutely beautiful tunes, but also some that, well, aren't and are ultimately just too quirky for me. Consequently, I am cautious. Any input on the Dar out there?

Finally, we have the unknown Kensington Prairie (or at least unknown here at the TR). Below we have "Bluebirds" from the new album Captured in Still Life. Kensington Prairie is the solo effort of Rebecca Rowan, the lead vocalist of Vancouver's indie band Maplewood Lane. This is a perfectly nice little tune and Rowan clearly has a wonderful voice, but truth be told, I got nothin' here and am just hoping that some BC reader will show up and tell me about Rowan and/or Maplewood--hell, even if you aren't from Canada (which we here in the states have of course all just recently learned is close to Alaska), what do ya know/think?

Absence Carrie Rodriguez
It's Alright Dar Williams
Bluebirds Kensington Prairie