Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Pitchfork hears the eraser!

Is the anticipation for Thom Yorke's new album killing you?

Well it probably will be if you read Pitchfork's generous song-by-song preview of the new album.

The Eraser is a sumptuous, Nigel Godrich-produced layer cake of plaintive piano, haunting synth squalls, and chugging guitars built atop skittish programmed beats and devoured by Thom Yorke's anguished ruminations on the pressures and paranoias attendant to fame and expectation. And no, it's not a techno record.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Reveal returns! (Or, the Springsteen review is up!)

After a painfully long hiatus, I'm diving back into review-writing this week. Reveal is back, with a slightly modified design and new reviews of the film Over the Hedge and the new Bruce Springsteen album...

Here's my take on We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions.

Check back later this week for more new music reviews.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Critics make a racket over the Raconteurs; plus, more praise for Jolie Holland.

Critics are all making a fuss about Broken Boy Solider, the debut album from Jack White's new outfit, the Raconteurs. A few folks really seem to hate it...

If The Raconteurs were any other group (that is, if The Raconteurs didn't have Jack White), the press/Blogosphere would slam it. (from Tiny Mixtapes)

...but most are singing its praises:

The songs zing with the excitement of two music nerds caught up in a game of "Top This!" (LA Times)

An album that sounds effortless, but at times almost dissyingly diverse--imagine The White Album, but made by happy people. (Mojo)

It's brief and even a little slight, but it's almost as much fun to listen to as it must have been to make. (Stephen Thomas Erlewine)

For a full rundown of reviews, check out Metacritic. And be on the lookout for my first impression, posted later this week. For now, I'll just say that I don't love it quite as much as The Times, but I definitely come down on the positive end of the spectrum. These guys are dynamite.

And while you're at Metacritic, just take a look at the reviews for Jolie Holland's new one-- which is currently hanging in there as one of the best-reviewed albums of 2006!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

My boss on The Boss

Mark Moring, the big cheese over at Christianity Today's Movies and Music pages-- not to mention a long-time Bruce Springsteen fan-- is singing the praises of The Boss' new album, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions-- which is likely to stand as the most straightforwardly inspiring, joyful, and celebratory party album you'll hear all year.

Monday, May 15, 2006

First impressions: Jolie Holland, Springtime Can Kill You

This one may be a tough sell; after all, Jolie Holland's new album, Springtime Can Kill You, isn't for everyone.

It's not an album for those craving big pop hooks; slick, radio-ready production; wild, eclectic, Sufjan-y arrangements or jubilant celebrations. Nor is it an album for the impatient, or for those with a distaste for melancholy, whiskey-sour midnight folk music.

Rather, it's an album for those who love the simple, disarming power of the human voice-- and oh, what a voice! Falling somewhere between Karin Bergquist and Leslie Feist, Holland's voice is sometimes heartbreaking in its grief, sometimes so sexy it'll make you break out sweating. It's the most potent weapon in her arsenal, and she knows it-- she plays with it, contorts it, stretches out those long vowels and phrases her songs with the precision of an actor. Springtime Can Kill You is the best singer record I've heard all year.

It's also an album for those who love poetry-- Holland's lyrics seem simple at first, but they open up to be surprisingly complex meditations on love, lust, loneliness, and longing. Recurring images-- changing seasons, birdsong, moonshine, dreams-- weave their way throughout the album, connecting both the originals and the three covers into something cohesive, something with vision.

It's an album for those who appreciate the great tradition of American song-- though these are all intimate, front-parlor folk songs at their heart, Holland paints them in subtle shades of country, jazz, and rock. "Stubborn Beast" and "Moonshiner" sway with a seductive country strut; "Crazy Dreams" is a feverish, punch-drunk pop ballad; "You're Not Satisfied" is an off-kilter Dixieland jazz number from the other side of midnight; "Mexican Blue" is an odd, epic closer that you won't believe.

And, it's an album for those who prefer a clean, unobtrusive production and the sounds of creaky old acoustic instruments-- the album is populated with horns, organs, acoustic guitars, steel guitars, upright bass, and lots of piano.

So yes, it's slow-moving. It's laid-back and patient. It's beautiful. It's profound. It's reminiscent of Over the Rhine's Good Dog Bad Dog, in all the right ways. And, for this listener, it just might be 2006's Album of the Year.

Sufjan speaks, downplays The Avalanche

File this under "From the Mouth of Sufjan, or, Our Indie Prog-Folk Hero Speaks!" Stevens had a conversation with Pitchfork Media in which he discusses, among other things, his upcoming collection of B-sides and outtakes, The Avalanche.

What's striking about the interview is how... well, uninterested Sufjan seems in the new album. He's got very little enthusiasm for the project, and doesn't seem to think too highly of many of the songs. In fact, the whole thing makes The Avalanche seem more and more like an attempt to milk more money out of the Illinoise cash cow. Disappointing.

Pitchfork: Were there any plans to tour behind the material on The Avalanche?

Sufjan: I don't think so. I don't think it's worth touring. There's one song...

Pitchfork: You sound really, really excited about this record.

Sufjan: [Laughing] I'm excited about it, but from a technical point of view. I like some of the songs. I think there's one song I would play live, which is "The Mistress Witch From McClure". But it just sounds like another song I wrote.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Lone wolf at the door

The bad news: Still no word on a release date or title for the new Radiohead disc-- in fact, it's looking more and more like we're going to have to wait until next year for new studio material from them.

The good news: Thom Yorke has revealed the details concerning his first ever solo outing, The Eraser, due in July! Pitchfork has more details.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

New album news: Woven Hand is back!

Here's another bright beacon on the musical horizon: It looks like David Eugene Edwards has a new disc in the pipeline-- Mosaic, Woven Hand's follow-up to 2004's excellent Consider the Birds, arrives in the US on August 22.

More on Paul Simon

More and more critics are singing the praises of Paul Simon's Surprise-ing new album, including Paste's ever-reliable Andy Whitman:

Surprise is Simon’s most unabashedly autobiographical work since 1983’s Hearts and Bones. He sings about his wife, his children and the hole in his soul that seems unable to be filled. He looks for answers in family and God, but the answers are complicated, and they resonate with unresolved dilemmas. On “Sure Don’t Feel Like Love” Simon’s deceptively cheery melody masks a sucker punch as he ponders the chemistry of teardrops—mere electrolytes and salt—and why that chemistry doesn’t even begin to explain the calculus of sorrow and regret. On “I Don’t Believe” he wonders why the idyllic, sun-dappled family times are so ephemeral, and why the next day always dawns grey and bleak. Eno wraps these conundrums in his patented ambient gauze, which perfectly mirrors the disquieting, ruminative songwriting. Bill Frisell’s guitars and Herbie Hancock’s keyboards peek through occasionally, but it’s Eno’s production, and Simon’s impressive acoustic fingerpicking—again, his best since Hearts and Bones—that mark this album, sonically.
Meanwhile, Jeffrey Overstreet blogs his first impressions:

It's fresh, bright, meditative, spontaneous, amusing, revealing, testimonial, atmospheric, and (as Josh Hurst promised) the best thing he's done since The Rhythm of the Saints (although Saints remains my favorite by far).

It's also surprisingly focused on God, the need for him, the mysterious ways in which he works.
But not everyone thinks it's so pleasant. No surprises here: Pitchfork rips it.

Contractually mandated "surprise" pun: In the end, Eno really isn't one. Talking Heads' 1980 Remain in Light owed as much to African polyrhythms as Simon's wildly successful Graceland did six years later. Moreover, Simon has always changed trappings from album to album, bringing on Nile Rodgers and Philip Glass for 1983's underrated Hearts and Bones and looking to Brazil for 1990's Rhythm of the Saints. But while a trendy folk-rock arrangement initially made "The Sound of Silence" a hit, memorable songs made Simon & Garfunkel worthwhile. On Surprise, Simon neglects his strengths, and the record's Plastic Eno Band mud paint can't bring them back.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Living with politics...

So, by now you've probably heard all about Living with War, Neil Young's new album of explicitly political, Bush-bashing protest songs. But have you heard the music itself? Apparently it's been streaming on the Web for a while now, but I've just now stumbled across the link at Neil's blog. You can hear the record for yourself here.

More new album news: Erin McKeown

Great news from the May edition of the Erin McKeown newsletter:

NEW ALBUM NEWS- here it is, buried in the may newsletter, but we wanted to send out a little teaser to the loyal fans. MCKEOWN has just finished recording a new album, the promised STANDARDS project. recorded live in 4 days, the album features an all star cast that will be familiar to many of you who have seen MCKEOWN play over the last year. SAM KASSIRER did his dance on the piano and wurly. TODD SICKAFOOSE brought his inimitable tone to the low end. ALLISON MILLER hit her drums with the perfect mix of humor, precision, and balls. and MCKEOWN brought it home with banjo, electric and acoustic guitars. to say this record is fun is a serious understatement. seriously. we'll have more news next month, but you can mark your calendars for a release later this year.

For what its worth, McKeown's last album, We Will Become Like Birds, was one of my five favorite albums of 2005.

Monday, May 08, 2006

New Release Tuesday: Simon! Jolie! Gnarls! Neil!

Surprise! Would you believe that Paul Simon's new album-- his first in six years-- is drawing raves from top critics? Just check out this high praise from Stephen Thomas Erlewine:

With repeated plays, Simon's songs don't seem as open-ended, and there's more to discover within Eno's production, particularly in how it plays off Simon's recurring themes of faith, aging, fatherhood, and getting by in George W. Bush's U.S.A. But this is not by any stretch a protest record; "How Can You Live in the Northeast?" and "Wartime Prayers" are about the uneasiness of living in the post-9/11 America, yet they're not statements of outrage, they're about the emotional toil of the time, and they have counterparts in the wearied narrators of "Once Upon a Time There Was an Ocean" and "Outrageous." It adds up to a bittersweet undercurrent that runs through Surprise, not unlike the melancholy threaded throughout Hearts and Bones, which this also resembles in its overall introspective tone and arty bent, but this is hardly a one-dimensional record; there is gentle hope and wry humor as well, giving this music a rich elegance that makes it stand among Simon's best work. Unlike such deservedly praised comeback albums from some of his peers -- such as Dylan's Love and Theft, the Rolling Stones' A Bigger Bang, Paul McCartney's Chaos and Creation in the Backyard -- Simon doesn't achieve his comeback by reconnecting with the sound and spirit of his classic work; he has achieved it by being as restless and ambitious as he was at his popular and creative peak, which makes Surprise all the more remarkable.

Meanwhile, Thom Jurek loves the new Jolie Holland disc, Springtime Can Kill You:

Jolie Holland's sophomore studio outing for Anti is a leap from her landmark Escondida. While that album traveled seamlessly from genre to genre without trying, Springtime Can Kill You moves at a slower, more labyrinthine pace toward an end that only Holland could conjure. There are many artists these days stepping deep into the rich tradition of American roots music, whether it's country, blues, folk, or gospel. To her credit, Holland is looking for something even more mercurial in her songwriting and cover performances: the American parlor -- or living room in the era before television when the radio was its centerpiece: it was the terrain where many voices, experiences, and stories from near or ghostly far came to life. Here,she articulates them in the present, often in the first person, as musical languages and as well-worn fables from life's margins.

Plus, there's no new artist more hyped than Gnarls Barkley. And, astoundingly, Neil Young's new album of politically-explicit protest songs, Living with War, is also drawing raves.

More new album news: Johnny Cash?!?

Thanks to Andree Farias for bringing this one to my attention. Apparently, a fifth title in Johnny Cash's American Recordings series-- which includes the classic American Recordings disc and three other albums produced by Rick Rubin-- will be released on July 4. CMJ reports that Cash and Rubin began working on the album right after finishing American IV, the last album Cash released before his death:

On the perfectly-fitting date of July 4, American Recordings will release a new Johnny Cash studio album, American V: A Hundred Highways. Leading up to his death on September 12, 2003, the country icon was recording material with producer Rick Rubin. In fact, he began recording the songs that would comprise the album immediately after finishing American IV: The Man Comes Around. In addition to his own songs, contributing songwriters for the album include Bruce Springsteen, Hank Williams and Rod McKuen. Rubin specifically held off releasing this collection until after the press train died down from the movie and commemorative, greatest-hits packages. At press time, there was no word as to whether this is the final release of new material or not.

Another Wilco update

Here's another update on Wilco's new album, straight from the horse's mouth. And by horse I mean drummer. Pitchfork talks with the band's own Glenn Kotche, who fills us in on the band's progress in the studio.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

It's Wilco's world...

A summer tour.

Time in the studio working on a new record.

An appearance on Late Night with Conan O'Brian.

It's a busy year for Wilco... and it should be a happy one for their fans. Paste has the scoop on the band's hectic schedule.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Radiohead is on the move.

I really don't want to talk about this.

I've been holing my breath for a Radiohead tour for months now, desperately hoping that they'd make it somewhere-- anywhere in the Southeast. Like Atlanta, for example, a city that is expected to become the largest in the country.

But no, apparently that's not big enough for Radiohead. The closest they're coming to me is Boston, and I'm not sure if a road trip of that magnitude is going to be doable.

Oh well. Here are the dates; hope you folks are luckier than I was...

Update: Radiohead debuted some new songs at a show in England last night!