Thursday, April 28, 2005

New Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams and the Cardinals release ‘Cold Roses’ on Monday in the UK, and Tuesday in the US. Every Ryan release is a moment of excitement for me. I’m particularly interested in this one after the ups of Love is Hell and the downs of LLOR ‘N’ KCOR. From the sounds of it, Cold Roses is a bit more Whiskeytown, a bit less ‘I wanna be a NY rock star’.

It’s the first of three releases this year. I doubt that they will manage to hold a consistently high standard, but all the records around the time of Gold, (Suicide Handbook, 48 Hours, Pink Hearts) were good so I could be wrong.

I’ll post a review when I have it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Maria Taylor - 11:11

ARTIST Maria Taylor
ALBUM 11:11
LABEL Saddle Creek
RELEASE May 24th 2005

Maria Taylor has decided to be herself. She appears on so many records (Moby’s 18, numerous Bright Eyes releases, The Bruces’ Shining Path,) that she’s long overdue a record all to herself. Predictibly she brings her friends in. 11:11 features an all-star cast of Cursive’s Gretta Cohn, Now It’s Overhead’s Andy LeMaster, Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis..

Maria’s sings effortlessly. Her breathy, unwavering, seducing voice is the steady force throughout the record. It’s both a curse and a blessing. Sometimes I wish she’d get more excited and shout something, but then she doesn’t scream her angst or snarl her problems. She doesn't warble melismas with the glut of high-strung chart divas. Her appeal is in her grace and understated subtlety.

It evokes comparisons to Gemma Hayes, Carole King, Emmylou Harris and Gillian Welch in her approach to acoustic folk. Mid-way through the record she forays into electronic pop, an experiment that thankfully is not repeated. 11:11 is a grower; it sounds a bit like the car radio as you fall asleep in the back. If you don’t pay attention it’ll pass you by, and you’ll miss what’s great. Initially the songs may sound the same, but don’t be fooled. Given some time, love and attention 11:11 will let down its guard and invite you in.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The hills are alive...

ARTIST The Mountain Goats
ALBUM The Sunset Tree
RELEASE May 2nd 2005

This is not an album of love songs. John Darnielle’s The Mountain Goats has tried that before. This is an album of suicides, prophets, alcoholic marriages and horrific stepfathers. Darnielle's own stepfather died in December 2003; and shortly afterwards, as the Mountain Goats toured Europe, these new, intensely personal songs started to flow. The presence of his stepfather can be felt throughout the album, launching glasses and screams at his wife on Dance Music, oozing menace asleep on the couch in "Hast Thou Considered The Tetrapod ?", waiting on the driveway and about to provoke "a cavalcade of anger and fear" in "This Year".

It’s dark but rewarding. Darnielle sings in an unconventional fashion reminiscent of early Sparklehorse and The Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan. He spits out lyrics of seedy apartments, makeshift friendships, cheap substances and unscheduled trips to hospital to uncharacteristically bright melodies. Arrangements are simple guitar/drums/piano but featuring some welcome cello. It’s not manufactured background music, it’s a real person singing about real lives. We need much more like this.

Despite what you might think, The Sunset Tree isn’t a sad record. It’s redemptive. Meditative rather than bitter; hopeful rather than despondent. He’s made it through all the bad stuff and ‘Pale Green Things’ closes the album with shoots of hope as the sleeve notes remind, ‘you are going to make it out of there alive’.

Monday, April 18, 2005


A new reason to call in sick; paraskavedekatriaphobia. Are you a sufferer?


Wednesday of last week was a good day. Specifically it was review day and this week I received three new releases. They are:

The Mountain Goats – The Sunset Tree (4AD)

The Mountain Goats are one of those bands whose name I have seen about the place for a while but never actually heard. It’s really the thoughts and songs of John Darnielle. John Peel was a long time fan of the Mountain Goats and a lot of The Sunset Tree first appeared on a Peel session. It’s intense and passionate, lyrics almost shouted over acoustic guitar, it feels real.

Turin Brakes – JackInABox (Source UK)

I really liked The Optimist LP, was disappointed by the follow up and have low expectations for this release. I hope that it will be TB back to their best, writing great catchy acoustic pop tunes.

Maria Taylor – 11:11 (Saddle Creek)

Maria Taylor is better known as half of Azure Ray, and a quarter of Now It’s Overhead (REM’s new favourite band). Notably she’s on Bright Eyes’ label, and Conor Oberst sings backing vocals on several tracks. I’ve never heard her solo, but I expect quiet but stirring songs.

I’ll be posting the reviews here as soon as they’re done.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Nói albínói

Nói albínói (2003)

Nói albínói , or Noah the albino, is the story of the boy who doesn’t fit. As a genius in disguise and truanting drop-out from an Icelandic village, he dreams of finding acceptance with the girl from the filling station. He drifts through life, meeting some wonderful characters like the book-shop owner with whom he plays mastermind, his eccentric, shotgun-firing grandmother, delinquent father and troubled schoolteacher.

In the winter, the village is completely cut off from the outside world, encircled by terrifying mountains under a thick layer of snow, compounding his feeling of isolation from the world and the rest of society. Noi dreams of somehow escaping from his white prison with the girl from the garage.

Noi is a wonderful lead who captures the heart of the viewer. He wants to be successful and happy; he has the ability but has difficulty leading a normal life. His drunken father is a constant reminder to him of where the wrong choices can lead. The film is filled with beautiful visuals, charming tragicomedy and an unexpected ending. The sound-track reason enough to watch it, fitting perfectly with the bleak white terrain. Well worth a watch with a few warm blankets

Monday, April 04, 2005

Love as Laughter


The Strokes and The White Stripes didn’t begin the American retro renaissance. It was spearheaded years before with bands like Seattle’s Love As Laughter. Now based in New York they’re rewriting the Stones and The Velvet Underground, but throwing in a healthy dose of Sonic Youth. Laughter... is described as ‘gritty, solo-rich classic rock’n’roll’, but it’s not exactly Thin Lizzy. Their fifth release, Laughter’s Fifth, recollects the sounds of T-Rex, My Morning Jacket and early Tom Petty; hinting at classic rock but with a good understanding of left-leaning artrock. Song-writer Sam Jayne worked with Beck on One Foot in the Grave and recently toured with Modest Mouse, including an appearance on Saturday Night Live.

Laughter’s Fifth is a little rough around the edges. It has a great authentic home-grown feel captured by the five-month recording period in a Delaware basement. The songs developed through long, pressure-free days jamming through Sam’s acoustic ideas, and it pays off. The whole record feels like recording was a lot of fun. At the end of Canal Radio you can hear the band joking, laughing and discussing Weezer songs. Each track speaks of dirty tricks, miscommunication, regret, bathroom graffiti and misadventure. Sam sings tongue-in-cheek on the heartbroken I Won’t Hurt You, as he knows he can, and most likely will. Opening track In Amber and later Pulsar Radio, stand out as text-book pop songwriting. Other tracks sound a little too first-take, there are some bum-notes and off-key singing, but it carries on where 2001’s Sea to Shining Sea left, confirming Love As Laughter as a criminally under-rated trio.