Wednesday, January 31, 2007

January Music Roundup

Once a month (maybe more often) I'm gonna try to comment on the music that I've gotten in that period. Here we go with things I've gotten in January:

I just got Endless Highway: The Music of the Band, and it's pretty damn good so far. Standouts thus far are My Morning Jacket's faithful but engaging cover of "It Makes No Difference," John Hiatt & The North Mississippi All-Stars' "Ain't No More Cane," and Josh Turner's "When I Paint My Masterpiece." The tracks that remain closest to the spirit of the originals, however, are the jam band tracks: Widespread Panic's "Chest Fever" and Gov't Mule's "The Shape I'm In." I guess that says something about The Band...

I dug up some demos from Patty Griffin's forthcoming album, Children Running Through. There are some pretty songs here, but I still think she's stuck in a bit of a malaise. I don't know what the hell happened to make her turn away from the direction she was going on Flaming Red and Silver Bell, but I wish it hadn't happened. Flaming Red remains one of my all-time favorite albums, and the stuff since then has been nice, pretty, and lilting but ultimately forgettable (with a few notable exceptions). Granted, these are just demos and thus don't have the final instrumentation, but it sounds like more of the same to me.

Picked up Jesse Malin's new one, Glitter in the Gutter, and it's a definite return to form for him. There's something about the way he writes his lyrics that makes me roll my eyes sometimes, but he reigns it in and makes a good, solid rock album. And Bruce Springsteen guests on "Broken Radio," which almost made me wet my pants when I heard it. They sing very well together, let's hope Mr. Malin repays the favor on Bruce's next record.

I got one track off of Lucinda Williams' upcoming album West called Words. It's not her best material, but being Lucinda Williams, it's still better than 90% of the music out there.

Also got Andrew Bird's new one, Armchair Apocrypha. Love the title, as usual. I'm going to hold off on making judgment because you pretty much have to do that with Andrew Bird records. They are the ultimate growers. I didn't like The Mysterious Production of Eggs or Weather Systems at first, but now I think they're brilliant. We get more of the same on the new one, spare instrumentation, literate songs, interesting use of strings and vocal harmony. More to come later, I'm sure.

I found several old Helen Stellar ep's recently as well. For those who don't know, they had a song on the Elizabethtown soundtrack called Io (This Time Around) that was really good, but I could never find anything else of theirs. There are three ep's, called Below Radar, Newton, and I'm Naught What You Think I Am. It's true shoegazer revival music, drony and soaked in reverb. They write really good songs, though, songs that are good enough to shine through the sameness of a lot of their instrumentation and stick in your head.

Some Loud Thunder is nothing new for Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, but it's pretty good. Dave Fridman's production is evident but not overbearing, making them sound at some points like The Flaming Lips but never enough to make you roll your eyes. I will never fault a band for branching out and trying some new stuff. Even if it doesn't work, it keeps the ball rolling. Most of the bad reviews I've read of this record can't get past the first record and how different it was. Personally a repeat of their debut was the last thing I wanted.

I have a bit of a weakness for Aqualung, even though a lot of his stuff devolves into Keane-ish hell. His new one, Memory Man, sounds even more like Keane, but strangely I like it more than the first one. He's a really good songwriter, even if he does go over the top sometimes, and he's unapologetically romantic. Hits my soft spot.

That's all I got for right now. Back to work, fools!


Anonymous Seth said...

I love Silver Bell and Flaming Red too, but I think Impossible Dream is just stunning....but then I'm a sucker for dark music/lyrics. Did you upload the Patty demos somewhere?

9:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...nice, pretty, and lilting but ultimately forgettable (with a few notable exceptions)..." need screaming guitars for music to be considered more than "forgettable"?

I've only heard (what I believe to be) the demos and not the final cd, but if it's anything like the demos, I don't believe I'll hear anything better this year. There is no-one that writes better songs than Patty, and "forgettable" does not describe any of her work.

2:54 PM  
Blogger Brad said...

I agree with seth and anonymous, and I think that bitching about a recording artist who doesn't simply redo the music that one liked from them is pretty lame.

However, this album is quite shitty. I've listened to it twice now and don't remember a single song. I'll defend 1000 Kisses and Impossible Dream until I'm dead, but this one is a clunker.

8:48 PM  

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