Thursday, July 27, 2006

My trip to Greenland

I've just posted my review of Greenland, Cracker's new album and one of the most susprising and delightful records I've heard all year. Here 'tis.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

REM is back! Sorta...

Thanks to Morgan for pointing out this choice bit of news.

From Billboard:

R.E.M.'s pre-major label stint on I.R.S. Records will be anthologized on two CDs and a DVD due Sept. 12 via EMI Catalog Music Marketing. "And I Feel Fine" will be available as both a single-disc CD package and a double-disc set with a host of rarities, live cuts and previously unreleased selections. The DVD, "When the Light Is Mine," features a mix of music videos and live TV
performances.

As expected, the single-disc version of "And I Feel Fine" includes the finest tracks from R.E.M.'s first five years, from "So. Central Rain (I'm Sorry)" and "Radio Free Europe" to "Driver 8," "Sitting Still" and "Begin the Begin." The set appropriately closes with "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)," from 1987's "Document," the band's final I.R.S. album
before inking with Warner Bros.

But it's the two-disc edition of the collection that will prove a bounty for R.E.M. collectors, as it includes the first authorized release of the studio outtakes "Theme From Two Steps Onward" and "Bad Day." The former has circulated on bootlegs for years, while the latter was originally recorded during the sessions for 1986's "Life's Rich Pageant." It was revived and re-recorded for inclusion on R.E.M.'s 2003 retrospective "In Time -- The Best of R.E.M."

Other nuggets include an early 1980s version of "All the Right Friends" (which was re-recorded for the 2001 soundtrack to "Vanilla Sky), demos of "Hyena" and the early live favorite "Mystery to Me," a "live in the studio" version of "Just a Touch" and live takes of "Ages of You," "We Walk" and "1,000,000" taped July 13, 1983 at Boston's Paradise.

"When the Light Is Mine" is highlighted by performances from the U.K. TV show "The Tube" of "Talk About the Passion," "Radio Free Europe" and "Can't Get There From Here" (featuring a blonde Michael Stipe), a 20-minute film titled "Left of Reckoning" and a 1984 performance of "Pretty Persuasion" from "The Old Grey Whistle Test." The label promises "rare interview footage and acoustic performances" but details of these features have yet to be announced.

Monday, July 24, 2006

American V: The review is up!

Just one more quick note to say that I've posted some thoughts on American V: A Hundred Highways, the chilling final album from Johnny Cash. Here's the review!

New album news: The Hold Steady

Yipee! One of my favorite rock bands working today, The Hold Steady, is set to release their third album, Boys and Girls in America, on October 3. Billboard has the tracklisting, the story behind the album's title, and more.

Glimpses of Paul Simon

Paul Simon's new album, Surprise, is the latest album to be featured in Christianity Today's "Glimpses of God" column.

I must confess that, sometimes, this column frustrates me a bit, but this one is, in my opinion, a real winner. And that has nothing to do with the fact that I wrote it. Seriously.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Late to the party...

Well, better late than never, I guess-- I've finally arrived at the party with my review of Gnarls Barkley's debut disc, St. Elsewhere. Here ya go!

Monday, July 17, 2006

New Cockburn this week!

My copy of the new Bruce Cockburn disc, Life Short Call Now, is on its way from my friends at Rounder Records. If you're a Bruce Cockburn fan, though, you'll probably want to get to the store and pick up your copy tomorrow; AMG's Thom Jurek seems to think it's well worth it!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

...and now, my review of The Eraser

For those who haven't noticed it already, on Friday I posted my review of the new Thom Yorke album, The Eraser.

Here it is.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Camera Reviewa

I've just posted my review of this fine album...


Let's Get Out of This Country, the new set from Camera Obscura, and one of the finest albums I've heard all year.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

You mean... there are people who DON'T like Sufjan Stevens?!?

Wow. Now here's an audacious move. Stephen Thomas Erlewine-- editor of All Music Guide, and one of my favorite music critics-- makes A Case Against Sufjan Stevens:

His charm started to show some cracks on Seven Swans, a quiet respite between states albums whose bare-bone nature had little of the flair of Michigan. Without this flair, Sufjan seemed like a pedestrian Elliott Smith, only without Smith's haunted grace or natural melodicism. It was a bit of a one-dimensional album, so Stevens' return to baroque on Illinois should have been a consolidation of strengths, which for many listeners it is. Many fans and critics find it a sophisticated display of wit and delicate composition, since there is often a tendency to label any album with woodwinds and brass as being sophisticated. But even if Sufjan can play oboe, even if the time signatures in his songs shift, his music doesn't play as sophisticated, because of the school-report nature of his subjects -- each song is thoroughly researched, spit-shined, and presented for the class, as if he's reciting all that he learned during his time in the library -- and there's not much variety within the music itself. Most songs on Illinois and The Avalanche, this week's outtakes and demos collection assembled from the same sessions, all bear strikingly similar arrangements, all assembled from Stevens' by now familiar trick bag: wispy choruses, tempo changes, whistling woodwinds, cutesy harmonies. It's music that gives the impression of being sophisticated and complex, that never comes close to the sophistication of Randy Newman, Van Dyke Parks, Jimmy Webb, or what Illinois most closely resembles, Brian Wilson in his SMiLE guise.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Modern Times Gets a Cover!

Here it is... the next Bob Dylan album cover!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Best Avalanche Ever?

James Christopher Monger has reviewed Sufjan Stevens' The Avalanche, a collection of outtakes and B-sides from the Illinois album, due in stores this Tuesday-- and he says it's almost as good as Illinois itself!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Andy Kellman on The Eraser

All Music Guide's Andy Kellman has posted a lengthy review of Thom Yorke's first "un-solo" album, The Eraser-- and while it isn't quite a rave, it's certainly very positive.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Solomon Burke does Nashville

So didja hear about Solomon Burke's new country music project?

As reported earlier, it's produced by Buddy Miller. It's got duets with Emmylou, Dolly, and Patty Loveless. It's called Nashville. And it comes out September 26.

Tom Waits is hitting the road!

Tom Waits comes out of his cave for a rare round of touring... and would you look at that! He's going to be visiting my neck of the woods!

Pitchfork has the dates:

08-01 Atlanta, GA - Tabernacle
08-02 Asheville, NC - Thomas Wolfe Auditorium
08-04 Memphis, TN - Orpheum Theatre
08-05 Nashville, TN - Ryman Auditorium
08-07 Louisville, KY - Palace Theatre
08-09 Chicago, IL - Auditorium Theatre
08-11 Detroit, MI - Opera House
08-13 Akron, OH - Akron Civic

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Opus on The Drift

Jason Moorehead is celebrating Independence Day with a review of Scott Walker's The Drift-- one of the most, uh, liberated albums of the year. And by liberated I mean insane.

Is it pretentious? Most certainly. It's likely that The Drift will be the most pretentious album you'll hear all year. And maybe next year. And maybe even the year after that. But that doesn't mean The Drift is something that can just be dismissed, as many no doubt have. The Drift is undoubtedly difficult and sometimes, is only palatable in small doses. But Walker certainly isn't pretending to make any other kind of music. He's very conscious of what he's doing.

For all of its surreal, absurd blocks of sound, it's clear that each and every moment of the album is carefully composed. While a good deal of experimentation may have gone into the album's creation, nothing seems off the cuff or thrown in there "just to see what happens". The long spaces of silence, the sudden eruptions of sound, the strange wordplays and imagery, the vocal phrasing -- each is intended to illicit the maximum effect. But what effect?

Monday, July 03, 2006

The River in Review

The River in Reverse-- a collaboration between Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint-- is both the most pointed criticism of American government and one of the most joyful celebrations of American culture that you'll hear all year. Thus, it seems fitting that I'd get my review posted just in time for the Fourth of July.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Five stars for Willie Nelson

Stephen Thomas Erlewine has reviewed the new three-disc Willie Nelson box set, The Complete Atlantic Sessions, which includes two hard-to-find Nelson classics, as well as an entire live set and plenty of B-sides and studio outtakes. And is it a set worth having? Well, it is according to Erlewine, who gives it a whopping five-star rating:

So, even if Nelson's time with Atlantic was brief, it was certainly pivotal, and ripe for a collection like Rhino's superb 2006 triple-disc set The Complete Atlantic Sessions. Over the course of these three discs, the two albums are presented in their entirety, adorned with outtakes -- some alternate takes, some early versions, some unreleased songs -- and then on the third disc the scrapped live album Live at the Texas Opry House is presented... Nelson has had plenty of great live shows over the years, but this is one of the best captured on record, and the vitality of this show -- it still sounds exciting decades after it was recorded -- acts as a wonderful counterpoint to the carefully considered studio albums. And all three discs together add up to an essential testament to Willie Nelson's most creative period.