Thursday, July 27, 2006

Quick summer picks

WAAAAY behind but a few quick summer picks:

- Jack Owen Startin' With Me (Arista Nashville): giving good ol' boys a good name

- Toby Lightman Bird on A Wird (Lava): a country Fiona Apple?

- Gym Class Heroes As Cruel As School Children (Decaydance): Limp Bizkit gets schooled and some heart to boot

Monday, July 24, 2006

Feelies solo- Glenn Mercer returns

Being a Feelies fan means being very patient. Not only was there a 5 year span between their first and second record but since they broke up in the early 90's, there was little hope that there would be any new music from them until the last few years. All the original members have been in contact recently and there is talk of a POSSIBLE reunion. In the meantime, I've been working with Bar/None to have their early catalog reissued (hopefully soon but it's a slow process because of... industry stuff).

And now leader/guitarist Glenn Mercer is prepping his first solo album and (hint to any perspective labels out there) looking for a good place to release it. He already has a MySpace page set up with two of the demos just to give you a flavor of what's going on.

Here's how Glenn describes the new material- "From my perspective, as well as others who have heard it, I think the songs sound very Feelie-ish, particularly because of the involvement with ex-Feelies on drums. Also, with the use of percussion and acoustic guitar, It reminds me of the Good Earth period. Although there are a couple of loud rockers as well."

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Syd Barrett remembered by Robyn Hitchcock

Well, if there is anyone who's going to make a tribute to Barrett, it might as well be one of his most astute pupils. In a recent interview, Hitchcock reflects on the Pink Floyd founder's unique genius. Warning- it's a 20MB file, which still take a while to load on a high speed connection. Well worth it though especially as he dissect the difference between SB, McCartney and Bon Jovi.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Rita Lee- life after Os Mutantes

Though the return of Tropicália legends Os Mutantes after a long lay off is a cause for celebration, many people wondered about singer Rita Lee who isn't part of the band's reunion. It turns out that Rita is still pursuing her own career. And how does that sound? See/hear for yourself. This adorable cartoon video at Google Video looks like a taste of an upcoming record. From the sound of the song, it sounds like she's carrying on the cheery, giddy spirit of the band in fine form. Maybe like OM, she'll come and tour the States too.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Spider- heart of gold folkie

OK, so maybe Camera Obscura isn't the sweetest musical confection of the year now (though "Lloyd" is still one of '06's best songs) because there's competition from a Brooklyn alt-folkie named Spider.

Maybe it's not a surprise that Jane Herships started out on an open mic night at the same NYC venue that helped to spawn Moldy Peaches. That's because Kimya Dawson is probably the only performer out there who might have a bigger heart.

A mere two years into her career now, she's put out her debut, The Way to Bitter Lake, on her own label and it's a gorgeous piece of work, worthy of the cutesy kiddie artwork on the cover. How else do you square lyrics like this?

blessings on
the little ones
whose little bones hold
muffins, cakes and scones,
spiders, sticks and stones

That might sound a little too moist for most singers to try to do but Herships' delicate voice is just right for such grade-school musings. She doesn't have to put on any airs to justify her child-like outlook because she literally sings it out in her songs. Dare I say that there's a winning kind of innocence to her work also. She can lullaby me to sleep any time she likes.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Camera Obscura- bring on the heartache

Pity poor Tracyanne Campbell. Every time her band Camera Obscura is mentioned, another more famous Glasgow band must be mentioned alongside- Belle & Sebastian. Other than the geographic similarity, it's true that there have also been musical (and romantic?) exchanges between the groups but that shouldn't diminish Campbell's gifts. How can you not love an indie pop band that calls one its albums Underachievers Please Try Harder?

Their latest release, Let's Get Out of This Country (Merge), begins perfectly, maybe too perfectly. "Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken" is one of the sweetest, tenderest (and yes, heart breaking) songs you're likely to hear in '06. Soaring strings, twangy guitar float around Campbell's delicate voice and you're immediately entranced. It captures the look of the album cover with her hands supporting her chin in the ultimate forlorn gesture as she stares off into space, sitting in front of flower wallpaper.

You're also scared to hear the rest of the album 'cause you're worried that there isn't going to be anything else there that's this wonderful and moving. And well... there isn't really though several songs come close, with everything bathed in a deliciously dream 60's pop glow that isn't retro. If I was programming the album, I wouldn't follow-up with something low-key like "Tears for Affair"- maybe something grand like "Come Back Margaret," the guitar-hooked girl-group tribute "If Looks Could Kill" or the bouncy, wistful title track would do the trick while saving more laconic fare like "Dory Previn" for later in the record.

Which is just to say that it's a good record that maybe could have been a great one. Campbell has a give for articulating the lovesick blues that should be the envy of any Nashville neo-trad and here's hoping that her band eventually overcome the B&S comparisons.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Julie Roberts- adult, depressed and proud of it

At a mere 27 years old, Neil Young released the song "Heart of Gold," adding a complaint that he was 'gettin' old' (wonder how he feels about that now, over 30 years later). At the same age now, country singer Julie Roberts (Mercury Nashville) sings "Too Damn Young" ('to know any better') as if her youth were decades behind her. Like Young, she's got an obsession with age.

But Roberts also has a special gift known to few artists- she can make good country music without popping it up too much and do it from a grown-up perspective. Lucinda Williams is one of the few performers who also has this gift.

Her second album, Men and Mascara, is notable also because this South Carolina native doesn't feel the need to play up her country credentials (except maybe on "Chasin' Whiskey"). It's also impressive that she's taking on more and more songwriting duties, including the defiant middle-finger to her ex, "First To Never Know" (as in "you'll be the..."). The title track is about two things that run and sounds like it's a report from someone who's been around the track many times, not some lovelorn teen. Ditto for the banjo-led "Girl Next Door" even though it's supposed to be set in high school where she jealously fumes over the beautiful slutty homecoming queen- Roberts is only in the marching band by comparison as the GND in the title and stands as a lovely anthem for all the wash-outs and wanna-be's who'll never get brass rings without asking for them. Even "Chasin' Whiskey" has a nice conceit to it- she's chasing her booze with her love interest instead of another drink. Again, not a teenybopper past time but more suited for a grizzled bar fly. And it doesn't get much more bitter "Lonely Alone" where she doesn't want anyone's company to get over her lovesick blues.

Admittedly, she does get kind of mawkish at the end about her mama and chasing rainbows and another song she co-wrote about her romantic longing (she wants skies of blue but to her credit she also starts the song longing for medication). But her been-through-the-ringer stance that she takes up before that is very winning. If she gets any more down and out, she might just make a great depressing masterpiece.