Seth Timbs (known to Spongebath Records fans as the brains behind Fluid Ounces) has a solo release, out just last week, titled One Man Argument. In typical Timbs fashion, it’s earnest, fervent pop with nuanced little bits of instrumentation and arrangement. There are the bedroom-pop quirks here and there — layers and layers of guitars, sundry percussion and synth tones (the organ on the instrumental number “Kingfisher” is top-notch). Some songs (“Loved to Pieces,” for instance) skew tender and intimate, while others (like “Horsefeathers”) are overtly buoyant indie pop. At times, Timbs’ heart is on his sleeve, sure. But he knows better than to be all precious about it. And just when you think Argument is all about zealous heartland-rock acoustic strumming and genuine feelings, Timbs breaks out a bit of mirth and playfulness with the lilting, upbeat "Trophy Wife" — for my money, the most enjoyable track on the record, with its dexterous piano bits, root-note riffing and tongue-in-cheekedness. Personally, I like my pop to be a touch dirty and/or dark at times, and while Timbs keeps it on the light side, Argument remains a smart alternative to your typical pop — or even indie-pop — record.
Preview or download Seth Timbs' One Man Argument via iTunes, and hear "Tropy wife" below.
Ghost on the Canvas appears to be Glen Campbell's final recording — as you probably know, the singer and guitarist announced this summer that he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. As such, it's a mostly successful attempt to modernize Campbell's style up to the late power-pop era: Producer Julian Raymond uses a group of musicians that includes former Jellyfish members Jason Falkner and Roger Manning Jr., along with guest stars Dick Dale, Brian Setzer and Billy Corgan. Much like Raymond's previous Campbell collaboration, 2008's Meet Glen Campbell, the new record gives the Arkansas native his due as an interpreter, singer, songwriter and guitarist — Campbell essays Robert Pollard's "Hold on Hope" and Paul Westerberg's "Any Trouble" very effectively, and writes a few with the producer. Ghost on the Canvas marries Campbell's vocals and guitar to a production and songwriting style that reminds me a lot of the high-end power pop of XTC, Big Star and Jellyfish.
For all its musical energy and inventiveness — Raymond layers acoustic guitars, strings and keyboards with formalist ease — Ghost does perhaps depend a bit too much on aural deja vu and, well, formalism. Apart from Westerberg's and Pollard's contributions, some of the record seems merely a modernizing strategy. For example, Dandy Warhols back up Campbell on "Strong," a tune Campbell wrote with Raymond. The song strikes me as well-intentioned but generic — something that would be better placed in a soundtrack. The same goes for "There's No Me ... Without You," which closes the record.
I drove two hours from Philadelphia to see Jeff Mangum play in Baltimore. I was excited. Then, unexpectedly, five seconds into "Oh Comely," I got kind of sad.
Over the course of the Neutral Milk Hotel frontman's set, that feeling did not go away. Something felt ... off. Maybe it was the fact that he was playing those songs (In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, On Avery Island) and only those songs — a time capsule of a performance. Yes, the reclusive genius was back from exile, but with what? It was hard not to see tragedy in those fallow years. His voice sounded great, but he used it in the service of simple acoustic versions of those classic tracks. He reached in all the same places, and warbled at all the same moments. It felt more like a recital than a performance.
I'm tempted to call Sarah Siskind's new full-length, Novel, the best late-'70s Joni Mitchell record I've heard in a while, but that overlooks what's both compelling and distracting about Siskind's take on the folk-jazz cusp. What the Nashville singer and songwriter does throughout the home-recorded and tinkered-with recordings on Novel reminds me of Mitchell, absolutely — the overlay of cool harmonies on oscillating rhythm-guitar figures sometimes reminds me of Mitchell's 1976 Hejira. Strangely enough, I also hear in my mind's ear a very odd combination of Carly Simon's tales of romantic disappointment and the slightly jazzy tone of Phoebe Snow. I've often mused over the result of an imaginary collaboration between Brian Eno and Simon, and Novel is almost it.
That's a compliment to Siskind — except I have to say I don't think she's as good as either Eno or Carly Simon. What's missing for me is any sense that she's involved in the literal aspect of her words — her big voice is certainly amazing. Siskind zeroes in on a note like someone very happy to be letting loose in what I'd call the Great American Modal Tradition. The melodies of such songs as "Take Me" and "I Think About Love" derive from The Beatles' "Norwegian Wood" and a thousand raga-rock hits of the past, and Siskind sings them fiercely.
Infinity Cat Recordings
Sept. 20, 2011
Generally speaking, when I’m critically listening to a record, I’m running through a mental checklist of things to look out for: fitting production value, clever arrangements, whether or not the words “crazy” and “lazy” are rhymed anywhere within the album. You know. The ushe. (Is this how you spell the short version of “usual”? I have no idea!)
All of that went straight out the window when I put Loose Jewels, the debut LP from Diarrhea Planet, into my stereo. As far as I’m concerned, there’s exactly one thing that I want out of the long-awaited full-length by the local kings of party-punk guitarmageddon: a record that sounds like a Diarrhea Planet show. The muscle I pulled in my shoulder pumping my fist to “Your Head” in my car can pretty definitively answer that question for you.
First of all, Hours is packed with rock songs that are both melodically nimble and visceral — even occasionally discordant. I know music writers and indie rockers alike love to look to the '90s as our stylistic mecca — chronologically speaking, of course. But I'd be absolutely remiss to say this stuff doesn't sport the same aggressive, heavy tones and turns as indie-rock outfits like Shellac and Slint. OK, I'll be less obscure. Chavez and Polvo. Shit! I'll try again. Dinosaur Jr. and Pixies. Yeah ... that one'll do. Also, I'll bet Queens of the Stone Age fans will get down on The GoldRoom, too ("Car With Crystal Brakes" especially). Point is, it's mean, it's hard, and it's played by guys who don't fear those numbers on the right side of their volume knobs.
But like I was saying. The "mystery" thing. This record was mixed and recorded all over the place. In the credits, you'll find familiar names like those of Jeremy Ferguson (Battle Tapes) and Brent Rawlings (who has worked with The Features, Kings of Leon and all sorts of folks from now-defunct Spongebath Records). But there are also names I haven't seen before, not to mention countries I've never been to — Italy, The U.K. and Argentina, to be precise. Speaking of Argentina, someone from there named Flor Moreiira performed guest vocals for The GoldRoom's "Es Verdad." It's the fifth track, and I want you to listen to it. Right. Now.
I've been listening to Volumes for a couple of days now, and for all its ambient, experimental leanings, it isn't a formless listen. Sure, there's the myriad instrumentation (from samplers and synths to horns and woodwinds), sprawling build-ups and occasionally complex rhythms. But at its heart, Volumes is about captivating instrumental melodies as much as it's about lush production. Side B's "Ramrod" is as aggressive as its title suggests, barreling through roughly eight minutes with a simple but commanding riff and a wall of dynamic noise. Drummer Scott Martin is a machine. Bassist Adam Bednarik (who engineered the EP at House of David) constructs transfixing bass lines while players Ryan Norris, William Tyler, Matt Glassmeyer, Ben Marcantel and Jonathan Marx provide flourishes that are sometimes grounded and familiar, and at other times wonderfully alien.
It probably goes without saying that Volumes will likely appeal to fans of bands like Tortoise, The Sea and Cake, Do Make Say Think, et cetera, but I'll go ahead and say it anyway: Volumes will likely appeal to fans of bands like Tortoise, The Sea and Cake, Do Make Say Think, et cetera. As always, this evening's Grimey's in-store is free.
Sometimes Nashvillian Daniel James, the talented multi-instrumentalist behind Canon Blue, is largely bereft of a local scene. And this can’t be explained away by the fact that he spends so little time here. (James tours with the Danish musical collective Efterklang and lives in Copenhagen when not in Nashville.) Ultimately this says something about his music, which began as ruminative bedroom folk in 2007 and has grown into an elegant orchestral pop sound that recalls Sufjan Stevens, Owen Pallett and, at times, Philip Glass. Though catchy enough to illicit comparisons to Nashville-based, mainstream-leaning acts like Paper Route, Rumspringa is ultimately a very cosmopolitan album, full of high-brow nods to sounds not percolating from our punk-dominated underground with any regularity.
Which isn’t to say there’s anything wrong with this scenario. Or that James is somehow less of a "local" by virtue of his time spent across the Atlantic. (Who wouldn’t want to see the world with a few richly cultured Danes or track strings, as he did on Rumspringa, with Amiina, whose work can be heard on almost all of Sigur Rós' albums?) No, this is simply a way of suggesting that, with regard to the new collection, James has gracefully distinguished himself from his peers in the best way possible — upping the ante in a scene that could benefit from some new ideas while giving outsiders one more reason to forfeit their conventional wisdom about Nashville.
Now, I loved Jolie Holland's 2004 release Escondida, which came out at roughly the same time as Norah Jones started to gain popularity and seemed like a less polished, more idiosyncratic (read: cooler) version of that Prairie Home Companion-style of country blues. Maybe Holland was sick of the comparisons to Jones and other sweetie-pie Americana crooners, because Pint of Blood seems to focus on her ever-warblier vocals, but these songs aren't quite strong enough to back it up. Much like Joanna Newsom or even Bjork, Holland's voice is sometimes so interesting that you can't pay attention to anything else. Like a bright light, it obscures the view, and detracts from the song instead of complementing or completing it. The highlight of the album is “Little Birds,” a re-working of Holland's earlier band Be Good Tanya's “Littlest Birds.” But the original song is still stronger.
It seems obvious that Amy LaVere made her new full-length Stranger Me in the same spirit of Memphis psychodrama that produced such Bluff City landmarks as Big Star's Third and Jim Dickinson's Dixie Fried. The Memphis singer-songwriter's first two records featured a performer unsure of how she fit into the Americana scene — there were moments of beauty, but the arrangements often seemed a bit out of step with the fragile emotions and wounded sentiments LaVere favors as a songwriter.
Stranger Me represents a leap forward for LaVere, even if there are moments when she seems like a very odd alt-country singer. When it works, Stranger comes across as a frankly experimental collection that is worthy of Dickinson or Alex Chilton at their best. "Damn Love Song" opens with a droning harmonium courtesy of Rick Steff, whose keyboards add a lot to the record's unusual texture. LaVere sings it in a weary, stressed-out voice, while a single bass note implies a chord change that slips by almost unnoticed.
Elsewhere, the title track sports an eerie mixture of rippling piano and oddball guitars. About halfway through "Stranger Me," the drums drop out, leaving the guitars and keyboards to support lyrics that suggest — as does the cover photograph of LaVere in a very fetching black mask — a major identity crisis. And it's this apparent crisis that helps give Stranger its unique tone. Not many Americana artists would choose to cover Captain Beefheart's "Candle Mambo" — a track that first appeared on his 1978 album Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller). Maybe you could cavil about this choice, but former Kid Creole and the Coconuts collaborator Coati Mundi beat LaVere to the punch with his 1983 version of Beefheart's "Tropical Hot Dog Night." Stranger Me does fine by Beefheart — not to mention LaVere's own compositions — and points toward new horizons for the kind of expressionist pop Memphis musicians have made their own.
yall forgot the 1st act : 7:45 - T. STRAIN.
I love that Bono is so playful! And this is his song, so he can…
Boy!! this here rifle is what i need to keep those Darlin girls in check!!…
Don't worry son, your Mom will be back as soon as the school bus drops…
The second woe is past; and behold, the third woe cometh quickly