Monday, July 29, 2013

Laura Marling - "Once I Was An Eagle" (5 out of 10)

My musical heroes of recent years have been Laura Marling and Joanna Newsome.  Tegan and Sara have crashed, burned, and sold out so they don't count.  I eagerly await Ms. Newsome's latest because the eagle has landed - that is, Laura Marling has become a pretentious mortal.  It sounds "serious" and all acousticy and organic and all that.  And serious.  Above all, Marling sounds serious.  She was always good for 4 or 5 memorable, beautiful, magical songs per album in the past, but not here.  I dare you to pick out just one song that a). You remember and hum to yourself...ever.  And 2). Holds up to any song on her last 2 albums.  A mish-mash of mediocrity once you look past the Oz-like curtain.  A shame. 

Camera Obscura - "Desire Lines" (8.5 out of 10)

Are they predictable?  Yes they are - but so is, say, Belle and Sebastian, who have run out of steam and ideas the past 8 years.  Tracyanne Campbell writes and sings such melodic and even soothing's something you want to back to again and again as long as it's good.  And this offering is.  Very.   Recommended best for long road trips or under the headphones or perhaps dinner parties. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Iron and Wine - "Ghost on Ghost" (8.0 out of 10)

Jazzy in places (a la Van Morrison) and melodic everywhere, Iron and Wine's latest may come as a disappointment to some of his hardcore fans, but it is a musical feat seldom heard in the 21st century.  God bless him.  It hearkens back to Elton's Madman Across the Water perhaps - I can't quite place it - but the production is stellar and the overall aural experience has a certain healing quality to it.  Which is what great music should have.  I'm just giddy to see an artist make The Leap and contribute something fresh and, above all, unpretentious in such a medieval era of music that we find ourselves in.  98% of todays musicians should either quit and go find a proper trade or hang their heads in shame and wonder in the presence of Mr. Beam.  Again, God bless him.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Jim James "Regions of Light and Sound of God" (8 out of 10 stars)

I'm really shocked that I love this album so much simply because it's not immediately accessible, and the older I get the less patience I have for nuance and subtlety.  And there's a fine line between creativity and creative indulgence that's just noodling and posturing (see Yorke, Thom).  This comes across as a true labor of love from the My Morning Jacket frontman and it grows with each listen.  Lennon-esque at times with a dash of the best of Badly Drawn Boy (where has HE been?), his spiritual longings rarely come across as less than sincere and quite humble and there's enough melody sprinkled around to hold interest.  In fact, this album gets much better with each listen.  Great production too. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Tegan and Sara "Heartthrob" (2 out of 10 stars)

Music Oasis back after over a year hiatus!  What has brought me (permanently) out of reviewing retirement?  Why, only the most disappointing album from any artist since the Black Keys "Attack and Release" in 2008 (off the top of my head.  Surely The Strokes are up there somewhere).  But before I put the knife into Tegan and Sara, a few words of praise and explaination are in order.
   First of all, no one has been a bigger fan of the Canadian twins than me.  I have carried their torch, sung their praises, and have been amazed at their albums since 2002's "Since There Was You."  They make beautiful songs with impeccable craft and stellar production.  They have grown as artists on every release and have brought me much joy listening to their music.  I could even argue that in the decade of the 2000's no one has done it better.  I love Tegan and Sara.  Secondly, I have no problem with artists "selling out" if by that you mean becoming more poppy or radio-friendly or whatever.  I want Tegan and Sara to succeed and make a bunch of money; they deserve it.  Pre-releases from them such as "Bodywork" and "Closer" actually had me excited about the upcoming album.
  However....Heartthrob is a complete embarrassment.  I just want the nightmare to be over and someone tell me that it was all a PR stunt.  Check out the song titles alone: "Goodbye, Goodbye," "I Was a Fool," "I'm Not Your Hero," "Drove Me Wild," "How Come You Don't Want Me," "I Couldn't Be Your Friend," "Love They Say," and "Now I'm All Messed Up."  Really?  Is this the Teen Mom 2 soundtrack?  Cheesy Taylor Dayne-like 90's synth sounds abound and what the twins I'm sure suppose is a bunch of harmless fun is just excruciating to listen to.  The melodies are juvenile, the beats unimaginative, and the lyrics don't rise much higher than the aforementioned song titles.  Just a complete disappointment of an album, especially when compared with their earlier efforts which had true passion, complexity, imaginative instrumentation, and inspired melodies.  This sounds campy and cheap.  I must, to be fair, say that the opener "Closer" is one of their best songs ever and it's possible to, perhaps, give a passing grade to the 1st 4 songs if the rest of the album had blossomed from there, that is.  But it doesn't.  If you love this album, good for you.  I realize that reviewing is a subjective art.  And I hope that these amazing ladies, who carry themselves with such class, make a ton of money from "Heartthrob."  I just honestly think it doesn't measure up and I can't recommend it.  At all.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Belle Brigade - "The Belle Brigade" (8.3 of 10)

Well this is why I review music, painstaking and frustrating though it is - sifting through crappy albums week after week like a Sutter's Mill miner in 1849. But then, there it is - a shiny gold nugget amidst the sediment of worthless mediocrity. I don't know anything about The Belle Brigade other than it's a brother-sister duo who are from L.A. And they are a fusion of Buckingham-Nicks, Mates of State, and the Everly Brothers if one of them was a girl. Got it? This is an amazing debut with great melodies, impeccable harmony, and enough diversity to always keep it interesting. Coming to a festival somewhere near you this summer, and when they become huge, remember I said it here first. I wish his voice was a little less nasally...but whatever.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Alison Kraus and Union Station - "Paper Airplane" (7.7 of 10)

They have forged their own sound and own genre over the years - no longer just bluegrass, not exactly country or folk, and certainly not pop- so just what ARE they? Obviously they rely upon Alison's angelic voice as well as the musicianship of Union Station. Now we just need melodies since there is no principal song writer in the group. And, it seems to me, that they have struggled to find proper songs the past few albums to make a coherent, flowing album that could stand the test of time and could be pointed to as their "classic." Hits and misses all over the place...and it's no different here. You get what you get. And it's nice enough, but name me the standout track or moment? What leaves you humming the tune as you walk away? Maybe "Lay My Burden Down" I suppose. Or "My Love Follows You Where You Go." Very nice moments there. But since Alison could sing the phone book and make it sound amazing, it's always worth the money to hear any album she's a part of.