terça-feira, março 31, 2009

986. Sufjan Stevens - A Sun Came [Bonus Tracks]

Sufjan is a pretty focused guy - he'll pick a theme and stick to it. For this early release though he doesn't follow anything exactly - if anything he brings it all into the album: Celtic, Indian, Middle Eastern, Moroccan, Far Eastern and American folk music all find a home here - along with mini interludes of annoying high pitched voices. This release proves that Sufjan is at his best when he has some direction.

5.8 out of 10

985. Iron & Wine - Woman King [EP]

This follow up ep loosely focuses on key women for each track, with Sam's hushed vocals sounding more like a mantra or battle cry than the sweet warm melodies we've been used to.

7 out of 10

984. Iron & Wine - Our Endless Numbered Days

Such a great album - Sam keeps it lo-fi but brings in other instruments, percussion and backing vocals to add a touch of glimmer... the album sounds like how every relationship should feel.

9.6 out of 10

983. Iron & Wine - The Sea & The Rhythm [EP]

This companion ep to Sam's debut consists of left over tracks from the 'Cradle' sessions. The five songs here don't stray from the debut album, which is a good thing - the melodies are hushed, the lyrics sensual and the finger picking sweet. This ep helped cement the banjo as the new electric guitar in 2003.

7 out of 10

sábado, março 28, 2009

982. Iron & Wine - The Creek Drank The Cradle

You have to hand it to Sub Pop. The whole concept behind the label in the early 90s was that you could buy a blindly buy a CD - if it had Sub Pop on it chances were it was loud and grungy. The label had no choice but to branch out... the leader of Iron and Wine, Samuel Beam, was a film professor at the University of Miami and recorded soft spoken tracks on the side. "The Creek Drank The Cradle" is a great introduction to the band, the lo-fi recording suits Sam's voice perfectly while he narrates experiences from a childhood you thought was yours.

7.2 out of 10

sexta-feira, março 27, 2009

981. Neil Halstead - Sleeping On Roads

I have Erin to thank for this. One night when trying to decide what to put on she asked me: American or British? Electric or Acoustic? Male or Female? And then she put this on. I was blown away because it all happened so quick and sounded so good... "Sleeping" is a strong cd from start to end, with quiet moments interlocking with louder fuzzier moments but always grounded with Neil Halstead's forceful whisper.

7.4 out of 10

980. Neil Halstead - Seasons

I love Neil's "Sleeping on Roads" cd - and I came across this single and saw "Between the Bars" on it - I assumed it was an Elliot Smith cover, but it isn't. Nonetheless, there are some decent alternative versions of songs here and the two bsides are pretty good. Worth keeping.

6.4 out of 10

979. Andrew Bird - Andrew Bird & The Mysterious Production Of Eggs

Bird's follow up is more fully realized - there are more tracks, the instrumentation is grander, the soundscape more lush and overall more confident - all while maintaining his trademark sound.

7.4 out of 10

978. Andrew Bird - Weather Systems

As I go through my cds I remove all the sticker prices and replace cracked jewel boxes (Chad likes to leave all that intact, which can be neat) - but I what I notice is that almost all of my cds were purchased used. I'm a 'serious' music buyer and I buy almost all my stuff used, which brings me to a point Chad and I were discussing the other day: cds should be $5 - all cds. People would be buying them up again - that's cheaper than a drink!

Anyway, on to Andrew Bird. I first heard/saw him when he opened for the Magnetic Fields in Town Hall - and single handedly he ran that show perfectly. He plucked, whistled and tapped his way into a pop looping bloom and this album does much of the same, but to a quiter degree.

6.6 out of 10

quinta-feira, março 26, 2009

977. Sleep Station - After The War

Joe had a track by these guys on one of his mixes and I came across it in the used bin for 99 cents... so I had to. A loose concept album based on a soldiers return home after the second world war. For the most part the tracks are filled with pure pop bliss but at times get lost in monotonous parts... still, a solid effort.

6.7 out of 10

terça-feira, março 24, 2009

976. Cowboy Junkies - Neath Your Covers: Part 1 [EP]

I got this free with something (yes, I do tend to keep everything) - and I am probably the furthest thing from a Cowboy Junkies fan, but I do appreciate covers, a lot... all of the tracks are countrified, and of course the one track that works the best was the one that was the least country to being with: Seventeen Seconds, by the Cure. The other tracks (Springsteen, Townes Van Zandt, Youngbloods and Neil Young) are already folky in their roots.

4.6 out of 10

975. Whiskeytown - pneumonia

Full disclosure, I bought this CD for 99 cents and it's the first time I've heard it... hearing Adams' beginning sounds like an extension of Heartbreaker and less the prolific nut that emerged afterwards. The songs are straight forward and grounded - not bad if you're into that sort of stuff.

6.4 out of 10

974. Ryan Adams - Gold

Truth be told, I only have this because at the time the girl I was dating wanted the two disc version with b-sides and when I got that for her she gave me her old copy... ahh the joy of gift giving in relationships. This is the cover that annoys me - what is that Ryan, an Old Navy shirt? And what kind of pose is that? I much rather these other american flag album covers. Ball busting aside at first it seems like this cd isn't as sincere as Heartbreaker, but it is, it's just not as good. Regardless of what anyone says, "Enemy Fire" is a pretty rockin' song. On the other hand "Tina Toledo's Street Walkin' Blues" sounds like Mick Jagger singing with ZZ Top (which in real life would be cool - but this sounds like a knock off).

7 out of 10

segunda-feira, março 23, 2009

973. Ryan Adams - Heartbreaker

I always hated Ryan Adams although I had never heard his music. I hated the genre he played, I hated the album cover for Gold - I wanted to like him because every time I read an interview with him he came across as a nice guy and made great references to metal, punk and 80s indie rock... well I finally got around to hearing and buying this and if you must listen to or own up to an alt country album this is it - the songs are full, melodic, the lyrics plausible and on one track he partnered with the best voice in country, Alison Krauss. Well done Ryan, but I still don't like you.

7.8 out of 10


I hate folk music. I don't like Bob Dylan, or country or alt country or Johnny Cash or Bruce Springsteen, or anything that is more about story telling than the music. Hell I don't even like folk art. So why do I have so many cds in this category? Well this 'neo folk' label that I slapped on covers a lot of stuff, from things that are hushed down and quite, to a righteous babe, to Springsteen wannabes...

sexta-feira, março 20, 2009

972. Elliot Smith - SXSW Music Fest - La Zona Rosa - March 17, 2000 - Austin, TX

This set from the Figure 8 tour features a full band and is a tad more assertive than the other live performance I have - the set list is long and enjoyable.

7.2 out of 10

971. Elliot Smith - Live 98 washington DC

This is a great, intimate soundboard recording from 1998 - its just him with his guitar and his voice is strong... you can find a copy of it here.

7.6 out of 10

970. Elliot Smith - New Moon

New Moon collects a series of out takes from 94-98 when Elliot was on Kill Rock Stars. As you can tell I'm a pretty big fan so this collection is near perfect - granted it's a disjointed sounding double cd - but there are many highlights such as 'High Times' which is gut wrenching, and the early version of my favorite 'Miss Misery' which contains the alternate lyric:

"But it's all right,
because some enchanted night
I'll be with you"

8.4 out of 10

quinta-feira, março 19, 2009

969. Elliot Smith - From A Basement On The Hill

This is a depressing album to listen to because it is so fucking good that you can't help but wish it had been finished. Who knows what he would have done with the tracks, what the second half of it would have sounded like or even what it would have looked like (I hate the cover to this - it should have been black with his handwriting, that's it). What is so great about this disc is that musically Elliot seems to be breaking out into all sorts of sounds, playing with different instruments, get drunk on a particular sound then moving onto another. I'm glad to have this but of course I'm upset he had to fuck it all up. All the lyrics, traditionally gloom and doom, accompany the imagery of a self inflicted knife into his chest.

9 out of 10

Give me one good reason not to do it, so do it

968. Elliot Smith - Figure 8

A much more electric sounding album and much, much darker too. At times Elliot breaks out into diminished mantras about life, or vicious lyrical cycles about himself. The most eerie track his the last one, a haunted simple instrumental called 'bye'. Another great album by Elliot.

9.1 out of 10

quarta-feira, março 18, 2009

967. Elliot Smith - XO

XO was Elliot's first release for a major label and it shows from the cover artwork to the sound inside... with a greater budget I assume, Smith was able to hang around in the studio a bit longer and breathe a fuller life into all the melodies in his head. While it isn't as intimate as either/or, XO is filthy rich in melodies and heartache.

9.8 out of 10

I'm never gonna know you now, but I'm gonna love you anyhow

966. Elliot Smith - Either/Or

I love this album. It's the last of his lo-fi recordings - it is an intimate album, with personal songs performed perfectly by Elliot all by himself... an absolutely monumental album.

10 out of 10

terça-feira, março 17, 2009

965. Elliot Smith - Elliot Smith

Thus self titled follow sounds more like a proper debut - the songs are more fleshed out lyrically and the melodies feel more in place... it already sounds like a classic and is almost quietly perfect.

8.2 out of 10

964. Elliot Smith - Roman Candle

After having left Heatmiser, Elliot Smith's debut is a bit unsure - sure the song writing is strong, but his voice isn't as confident and it's an all too brief introduction. The four track quality doesn't bother me at all. Still, it's an elliot Smith lp so it is good.

7.4 out of 10

963. Jeff buckley - Mystery White Boy

This cd collects various live performances into a solid 12 track offering. Jeff sounds as big as you'd expect, even with a full band behind him. There is no going through the motions on any of these tracks, each song is approached as if he's meeting it for the first time...

8.3 out of 10

segunda-feira, março 16, 2009

962. Jeff Buckley - Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk

I first heard about Jeff Buckley drowning by reading in the paper, USA Today to be exact, at the restaurant I was working at. It's crazy that he drowned - what a fucked up way to go, and what a fucked up way to lose an amazing artist (not that there is a good way). Sketches is a pretty amazing two disc set covering all sorts of demos and recorded tracks that may or may not have made it on to the final album - who knows what it would have really become - it would have been, I think, all over the place in Jeff's own unique way.

8.4 out of 10

961. Jeff Buckley - Live From The Bataclan

This 30 minute plus live ep is near perfect - it falls short only because it is too short. The performance is perfect and the crowd is completely in love.

8.9 out of 10

960. Jeff Buckley - so Real

This three track cd single features the folky/bluesy "Lost Highway" and the long, repetitively meandering "Tongue", an 11 minute jam that sounds like Chad and I until the very end when Jeff breaks his trance and goes somewhat ape shit.

6.8 out of 10

959. Jeff Buckley - Grace

Grace is a monumental record. I got this after hearing 'Last Goodbye' and remember thinking that it could be hit or miss... all ten tracks are a hit, with the collection of songs being completely varied, yet all held together so perfectly by Jeff's voice and guitar. After this release he pretty much could have gone anywhere for his follow up.

10 out of 10

sexta-feira, março 13, 2009

958. Jeff Buckley - Live at sin-é

This review is for the ep version that I own (I have a copy of the double disc)... I first heard Jeff on MTV through his video for "Last Goodbye" - the song was so unique yet familiar I had to pick it up immediately... the four tracks on the disc show the force behind Buckley's voice and guitar as a performer - whether it's a cover he is playing or his stuff he owns it all.

7.9 out of 10

957. Richard Buckner - Dents and Shells

Here's another guy that I heard perform on KCRW and then picked up his CD ($6.99). This is a great disc, both full at times, and sparse in others. Richard has a great distinctive voice that is more story telling than full on singing but it really works. Someday some young talentless punk is going to cover a song of this cd and make a name for him/herself.

7.6 out of 10

956. John Ralston - Sorry Vampire

I know John - Chad knows John really well - we went to college with him and ages ago Chad and I designed a CD for his first band Recess Theory, which then turned into Legends of Rodeo and eventually dissolved into just John by himself. So sure this is going to be subjective, but I am actually going to be short and tough. John is immensley talented as a songwriter and performer - this album is so layered and intricate you can't possibly hear everything in one sitting - despite all this it is at times predictable. My recommendation would be either bring in a song writing partner who's still is far more punk than yours, and that will keep your songs one step ahead - or embrace where you are at and have a female singer join your band where the two of you can share vocal duties and add another dimension to your tracks. As far as design is concerned you can't do much better than Jesse LaDoux!

6.3 out of 10

955. John Vanderslice - Pixel Revolt

Pixel Revolt is a fine album with songs ranging from concerned pop to bare epic battle calls - whether you agree or disagree with the political commentary John makes, you have to admire the cathartic exercise this album is - it is a vocal piece of work always propelling you forward, past the weakened state everyone felt in the early 2000's.

7.4 out of 10

quinta-feira, março 12, 2009

954. Rufus wainwright - Poses

This is the only Rufus CD I've heard but I'd like to guess that it's his most cohesive - the tracks are thematic but not as strict, where the narrative is free flowing and spirited. I think it serves as a great introduction to a very talented artist.

7.5 out of 10

953. Aimee Mann - Bachelor No. 2

The film Magnolia brought Aimee's music back to the forefront and deservingly so - her songs for that soundtrack, which are featured on this album too are pretty powerful, they are balanced out with other solid tracks. The album has several tracks and you can tell - I know that if this had been produced by one person (notably Jon Brion) it would have been stellar.

8.3 out of 10

quarta-feira, março 11, 2009

952. Michael Penn - Mr. Hollywood Jr., 1947

I used to buy many cds based on hearing just one track - we all did, I think - and mp3s now have killed that need and saved people millions (and in the process handed in great losses to one hit wonder artists and labels). Michael Penn's Walter Reed was such a great track that I promptly picked this up (used of course). The rest of the CD has some strong moments but overall falls a bit flat. What Mr.Penn should do is release a cd with his wife Aimee Mann - they would make a stellar duo ( I think they're married).

6.4 out of 10

951. Joseph Arthur - Live in Brugge, Dec. 2003

I picked up this bootleg online because I was desperately trying to find something that was closer to what I heard on KCRW. Despite the glitches, pops and drop outs this live recording is so much better than the 'real' thing.

6.6 out of 10

terça-feira, março 10, 2009

950. Joesph Arthur - Our Shadows Will Remain

I first heard Joesph on KCRW, he was performing live - by himself and I was pretty amazed at how much sound one performer was making and his songs were instantly great - they didn't require the need to grow on you. So, like I used to so often, I came across the CD at Academy Records in the city and bought it for $6. I was disappointed that my new stripped down instant favorites were are polished up, tweaked with effects and backing up vocals - almost every track went way too far. It was as if you met the perfect girl on the beach, as is and then you meet her again out and she has all this unnecessary color on her face, she was perfect before! At their core the songs are really good, but I was hoping for the one man show I heard.

6.8 out of 10

segunda-feira, março 09, 2009

949. jim White - Drill A Hole In That Substrate And Tell Me What You See

Solo artists are nuts - it's almost like they are a tv channel at times, broadcasting all sorts of stuff. Jim is no exception - he can go from the pensive 'Static On The Radio' with Aimee Mann, to what sounds like a very, very early and bad Beck bside (if Beck had a ton of producing cash and a think for 80s back up singers) on 'If Jesus Drove A Motor Home'. So the results are at best mixed.

6 out of 10

sexta-feira, março 06, 2009

948. Jim Gutherie - now more than ever

I bought this album (used) based on this review. I also ended up seeing Jim at the Mercury Lounge opening up for Sufjan ages ago - he puts on a good show, but I remember him having a tick or something while playing. His record is so detailed that it is fitting he has a tick, as some sort of self reset button before an overload occurs. The excessive use of strings on the disc evoke Badly Drawn Boy every now and then, but for the most part his voice is pretty unique. "So Small" is one of my top 'if you're feeling down in the dumps/you can do it!' sort of songs.

7 out of 10

947. Nick Cave - Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!

I remember seeing an interview with Nick Cave in the early nineties where he said something like "I am an authority on melancholy" or something like that, but when I checked him out the music wasn't what I was expecting... then he started dating PJ Harvey, my PJ! So he became an enemy - thankfully that ended - fast forward to last year when this came out there was something that just told me 'you have to get this'. I'm glad I did - sure at times Nick does his lounge singer thing, but never in a mocking manner - it is heartfelt, dirty and pure stream of consciousness - he makes Springsteen sound like a guy covering Springsteen.

8 out of 10

946. José González - Veneer

All of us had this mix club where mix cds were made for one another - Ellen, before we were dating, ended one of her mixes with two tracks: "Heartbeats" by the Knife, and the same song again but covered by José González. That's the great thing about mixes is surprising your friends and manipulating the tracks yourself. I ran out and got José's cd which is a mellow mix of acoustic pop and meditative vocals - at times I wish his voice was stronger, but other times it blends perfectly with the strings.

7.2 out of 10

945. Hayden - The Closer I Get

Kims was a bit of an indie record store empire here in New York - a boutique filled with dvds, cds, lps and posters... over the years the empire has whittled down to nothing, even their flagship has been vacated and they've moved to a space a third of the size. Anyway, in the west village they had a little underground post - I walked in and heard something good and found out it was Hayden. This disc gets pretty close to being something great, but as with many solo artists, there isn't anyone to reign in the bad or odd ideas so the disc ends up losing its footing, but does get pretty close.

7.4 out of 10

quinta-feira, março 05, 2009

944. Owen - No Good for No One Now

I can't remember the reason why I got this... maybe I knew it was the guy from American Football or I just liked the cover - either way I recall trying really hard to like it. The material isn't bad it is just missing something - the songs almost sound as if they are short of breath, creating this uneasy feeling throughout.

6.2 out of 10

quarta-feira, março 04, 2009

943. Pete Yorn - Day I Forgot

Shit. I don't know what I was thinking here. It's a day I wish I'd forget.

2.3 out of 10

942. Pete Yorn - Music For The Morning After

Now this cd covers my depression era 2.0. I was at a coffee shop once and heard something pretty great, that got crazy in the end and I asked who it was - the kid said Pete Yorn. She was wrong. The disc has pretty decent pop moments, but when coupled with expected bar chords and uninspired lyrics the album averages out to just about a C - but have you ever noticed how when you're depressed you're more open to bad music?

6 out of 10

941. Duncan Sheik - Duncan Sheik

This is from my depression era and not only does listening to it again make me depressed, but I think it added to my depression back then. He's a talented fellow but overall boring - it had a pop hit with "Barely Breathing" that sounds as if it wrote itself. But this cd doesn't bring anything to table for me now.

4 out of 10

940. Sondre Lerche - Faces Down

Ellen had placed a song of his on a mix once and thanks to BMG I was able to easily get this. The album is such a solid pop album from beginning to end mixing in different influences and techniques - it's a shame it didn't get more credit when it came out.

7.6 out of 10

NOW SERVING: The Troubadour

Ahhh troubadours... male or female, they often have so much to say, creating an endless pile of music with personalities always at the forefront. I love the pensive solo artist and each release always requires the utmost attention... which means they have to be really good or else they reek of cheese.

terça-feira, março 03, 2009

939. Mirah - C'mon Miracle

This cd could have been easily dismissed as a quiet folky girl noodling on her guitar - perfectly fit for a coffee shop in the late nineties - but at a closer listen it's actually much deeper both musically and lyrically. It can also be pretty depressing.

7.9 out of 10