Sunday, April 29, 2012

# 3 (TM) William Elliott Whitmore - Field Songs

William Elliott Whitmore's Iowa farmer perspective infuses darkly soulful songs with dirt underneath the fingers backbone that are delivered in an extraordinarily rich, booming cannon of a voice. Each song is a call to arms, inspring listener action and reaction. Reminds me of Jay Farrar's gift - sounding like an old soul frozen in a young man's body.

Field Songs mark time like old time spirituals, songs of faith and promise sung by slaves to try and temporarily ease their burdens. The sparse instrumentation (a gently picked banjo, a barely strummed guitar) places the focus on Whitmore's bruising vocals, and he hangs on to words like he's afraid to let them go. At 8 songs and 34 minutes, Field Songs scores a quick and decisive knockout, landing blows for the oppressed and depressed everywhere.

William Elliott Whitmore - "Let's Do Something Impossible" (from Field Songs)
William Elliott Whitmore - "Johnny Law" (from Animals in the Dark)

# 4 (TM) - Lydia Loveless - Indestructible Machine

21 year old Lydia Loveless (who name conjures up a goth country diva) initially impressed with "Steve Earle", a fitting "tribute" that paints Earle as a stalker of sweet young things who "won't stop calling me" and "just wants to write some songs", but all she wants is for Steve "to please introduce me to your son", the ultimate backhanded compliment. And it's just the tip of the iceberg for Indestructible Machine, an album awash in that Old 97's galloping backbeat, but recasts Rhett Miller as Loretta Lynn.

But mostly this album recalls the glory and go-for-broke-ness of the debut Lone Justice record, especially on the roiling "
Bad Way to Go" and the unapologetic war cry of "Do Right." Loveless may not possess Maria McKee's wondrous range, but that's really praising by faint damn. Loveless is a take-no-prisoners storyteller and the freshest new female alt-country voice in recent memory.

Lydia Loveless - "Steve Earle" (from Indestructible Machine)
Lydia Loveless - "Alison" (Elvis Costello cover from her "Bad Way to Go" Record Store Day 7")

Saturday, April 28, 2012

# 5 (TM) The Decemberists - The King is Dead

Deciding to cast aside the wonkier folk-prog pretensions that conjured dreams of 17 song suites and nightmares of Jethro Tull comparisons, The King is Dead is far and away the most inviting record The Decemberists have ever made. It also contains the best collection of melodies on any 2011 album. Sounding like a more lucid REM in their prime, songs like "January Hymn", "All Arise", "Dear Avery" and "June Hymn" all sound like instant classics. A panoply of song indeed.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Record Store Day 2012!!

I hope you score that Feistodon 7" that's got Feist and Mastodon covering each other. Or the Carolina Chocolate Drops/Run DMC split 7" which pairs CCD's new version of Run DMC's classic "You Be Illin" with the original. Or maybe you'll splurge and get the first three groundbreaking Uncle Tupelo albums on 180 gram vinyl. Me, I'd like to get the Dave Hause and Justin Townes Earle 45's and the fun. 10". But the important thing is to get out of the house today and go converse with other humanoids. That's what Record Store Day is about (well, that and getting Feeney to perk up a bit) - the connection with the music, the discovery, the thrill of finding a record you've been searching for or stumbling upon a future crush you didn't even know existed (like Shark Tape). Talking to people!! Check out this clip from Almost Famous which features a young Patrick J. Feeney getting safe passage to a new world courtesy of the old album stash under the bed.

I'll be spending the day at Main Street Music in Manayunk, but Record Store Day sales and celebrations will be emptying wallets all over the Delaware Valley at Repo, aka, Shady Dog, Tunes, Mad Platter, Siren, Positively and many others.

Here is the Main Street Music (4444 Main St., 215-487-7732) schedule of live bands and a sample mp3 from each:

12:30 - Shark Tape - "Joanne"
1 PM - Cheers Elephant - "Falling Out"
2 PM - Megan Reilly - "Throw It Out"
2:30 - John Wesley Harding - "There's A Starbucks (Where The Starbucks Used to Be)"
3:30 - Anthony D'Amato - "On The Banks of The River Where I Died"
(buy Anthony D'Amato's brand new release, Paper Back Bones, a month
before it's release date exclusively at Main Street Music... it's really good!)

4 PM - Jesse Malin - "St. Marks Sunset"
5 PM - Spinto Band - "Summer Grof"

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sunday, April 15, 2012

#4 (MA) Black Keys - El Camino

Not the last rock and roll band, but maybe the last one with great pop instincts, in 2011 The Black Keys made the rarest kind of rock album - one that connected with the masses while remaining true to all that has always been good about a band that was once viewed as a destitute man's White Stripes.

#5 (MA) Dawes - Nothing is Wrong

On the album's closer, "A Little Bit of Everything," Taylor Goldsmith sings "so pile on those mashed potatoes and an extra chicken wing, I'm having a little bit of everything," and that's an apt a metaphor as there is for an album that's pure comfort food for the ears. My constant companion throughout the year, it was my most comfortable jeans, my softest leather boots, my mellowest whiskey.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

# 6 (TM) - Dave Hause - Resolutions

Making the transition to punk rocker (as lead singer of The Loved Ones) to singer-songwriter is difficult to pull off, but Dave Hause has not only done it with grace and cred intact, but has also succeeded with his veins bulging ferocity intact.  

The songs on his solo debut Resolutions grapple with that moment when idealized notions (changing the world via punk rock) meet maturing truths (how to marry art, family and adult obligations) in a fantastic mess of frayed nerves and still to be finished stories. Hause dials down a bit of The Loved Ones' scorched earth policy, but his clear, testifying vocals fill the grooves with emotion and empathy. Inspirational verse which strikes at Resolutions evangelical, hardcore heart - "I want to play some Al Green  and spend more time with Tim".

Dave Hause - "C'mon Kid" (from Revival TourCollection 2009)
Dave Hause - "Another Town" (Steve Earle cover)

# 7 (TM) - Dawes - Nothing is Wrong

Dawes will not change the world, but Nothing is Wrong might change yours. Writing drifting, lovesick tunes about homesick blues, Dawes are tasteful to a fault. The songs are terrific, but lose some of the zip the exhilarating live shows bring. But that's a minor quibble when you're sitting on songs as good as "Time Spent in Los Angeles", "Coming Back to A Man", "Fire Away" and "Million Dollar Bill". And verses like this from "Time Spent in Los Angeles" recall early Jackson Browne, which sets the bar extremely high:

"Cause you got that special kind of sadness
You got that Tragic set of charms
That only comes from time spent in Los Angeles
Makes me wanna wrap you in my arms"

Leading the way (along with The Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons) in reviving the Laurel Canyon brand of melodic and heart on sleeve songwriting, Dawes rank among the best young American bands.

Dawes - "Lawyers, Guns and Money" (Warren Zevon cover)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

# 8 (TM) - Deer Tick - Divine Providence

Divine Providence is the album where Deer Tick kick off their dusty boots and put on their high heel sneakers and claim the boozy, freewheeling throne The Replacements abdicated two decades ago. Lead Tick John McCauley seems hell bent on rock and roll destruction, and on the caveman-like stomp of the "The Bump" (a too dumb to live, too smart to die update of "We're An American Band") and the Westerbergian "Main Street", he bleeds and carouses enough for all of us.

Deer Tick - "Dead Flowers" (live)

Monday, April 09, 2012

# 9 (TM) - David Wax Museum - Everything is Saved

Switching effortlessly from Tex-Mex hoedowns ("Born With A Broken Heart", "Chuchumbe") to gorgeous, plaintive ballads ("Lavender Street", "Wait For Me" and the heartbreaking look back "The Least I Can Do") to the relentlessly upbeat "Yes Maria Yes", The David Wax Museum's Everything is Saved is the year's most approachable and inviting album. This band is impossible not to love. Fans of Los Lobos and early Felice Brothers should take note.

The David Wax Museum - "Yes Maria Yes" (from Everything is Saved)
The David Wax Museum - "The Least That I Can Do" (from Everything is Saved)


# 10 (TM) - Ezra Furman & The Harpoons - Mysterious Power

Managing the neat trick of sounding simultaneously worldly wise and impossibly naive, Ezra Furman gives Jonathan Richman a run for the money as the king of quirk. Instead of "She Cracked", Mysterious Power sounds more like "I Cracked". Come for the cloistered  optimism of "Mysterious Power" and "Fall in Love With my World" but stay for the off-the-rails punkitude desperation of "Teenage Wasteland" and "I Killed Myself but I Didn't Die".

Ezra Furman & The Harpoons - "Mysterious Power"  (from Mysterious Power)
Ezra Furman & The Harpoons - "Teenage Wasteland"  (from Mysterious Power)

Thursday, April 05, 2012

#6 (MA) Florence & The Machine - Ceremonials

Riding the fine line between Echo and the Bunnymen and Martha and the Vandellas, our heroine is the undisputed queen of gothic soul, like Annie Lennox updated for a new century. Fierce.

#7 (MA) Dum Dum Girls - Only in Dreams

This is some sheer pop perfection. Dee Dee's voice is three parts Chrissie Hynde to one part Neko Case, and the thick dreamy production draws a few clouds across the sunny California skies. Resistance is futile.

#8 (MA) The Roots - Undun

The world's greatest rock and roll band is now one of the most consistent outfits, too, delivering one album after another of hard fatback funk and fluid flow. We don't do a lot of hip hop around here, but this one is undeniable.