indie rock news, new music, reviews, video clip views, the blues, some boos, and ballyhoos, pseudo-subterfuge, loose dudes and semi-nudes, interviews, ears chewed, sounds skewed, never rude, always a groove
Sunday, October 22, 2006
listen to new music...
from these current releases on the artist's myspace pages:
I heard the new Sparklehorse, Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountian, late yesterday. It was as near-perfect end-of-day music as I can imagine. What I discovered today is that it's also a great disc to have playing softly in the background as I worked - sweet melodies and sparse arrangements, with the occasional rocker for good measure. I've listened 3 more times today, enjoying it more with each listen. This easily makes my top 20 for 2006 and I expect it will remain in the ipod for some time to come.
Two years ago today Elliott Smith's From a Basement on a Hill was released, two days shy of the one year anniversary of his tragic death. From the first moment I heard Elliott Smith (my indoctrination was with X/O), I found comfort in his sad, sweet music. Given that I never met him, it's strange to say that I miss Elliott Smith, but, just like so many others who were touched by his beautiful songs, I do.
From a Basement on a Hill remains one of my favorite 5 CDs of the millenium.
A sonic whirlwind of guitars, keyboards, sound effects, and Smith's remarkable multi-layered vocals, generally in soul melting harmony, but at times like random voices in a head. It's not a stretch when David McConnell, the producer Smith had been working with on Basement, compares it to the White Album. Basement's tracks effortlessly roll through perfectly structured sad indie pop (Pretty (Ugly Before), A Fond Farewell, Twilight), to sweet finger-picked acoustic guitars (Let's Get Lost, The Last Hour, Memory Lane), to noisy neo-psychedelic waves of sound (Coast to Coast, Don't Go Down, Shooting Stars).
While generally well received, some critics stopped short of rave reviews, based in part on the fact that the work was unfinished at the time of Smith's death. When he died, Smith was still working on the album, with few songs 'final', and the remainder in varying degrees of completion. The fragile 'Little One' contains painstakingly arranged layers of reversed keyboard effects and softer than silk vocals, yet contains a section where the lyrics were clearly unfinished, and Smith simply sings 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 7. Basement is sprinkled with moments of similar incompleteness, which in the context of Smith's life and death, I find befitting.
If asked for my top three Elliott Smith songs, two would come from Basement.
'Kings Crossing' is an indie rock opus. Starting with barely audible background chatter, laden with echo, one can make out "anytime, brother", and then gentle sustained guitar notes ride in, followed quickly by faint, moaning vocals, and a wavering electronic hum. In fact, all the sounds are wavering, and building. A plunking piano begins to fade in, hammering out a minor key refrain over the retreating wave of sound. The hum and echo dissipate, but the moaning vocals never cease. They continue to swirl and slowly steady, taking on a rhythym and melody that can only be taken for passages of crying.
"The King's crossing is the main attraction, dominoes falling in a chain reaction," Smith begins, the plunking piano replaced by an effect laden electric slide guitar. Background vocals accent the end of each lyrical line, and the song as a whole continues to build. "Every wave is tidal, if you hang around you're going to get wet," Smith ends the first quatrain.
"I can't prepare for death anymore than I already have," Smith warns, and then accentuates with synth notes that alternate high to low. The synth sustains in longer notes over the follow-up lines, "all you can do now is watch the shells, the game looks easy, that's why it sells."
And suddenly we're engulfed in sound. Heavy drums and cymbals, bass, guitar, and, a wailing background vocal. "Frustrated fireworks inside your head, are gonna stand and deliver dark instead" Smith belts in earnest. Loud crashing waves pound through the song until Smith cries, "because I took my own insides out."
The music settles back as Smith confesses, "it don't matter cause I have no sex life, and all I wanna do now is inject my ex-wife." More drug references are conveyed, "it's christmas time and the needles on the tree, the skinny santa is bringing something to me, his voice is overwhelming, his speech is slurred, and I only understand every other word."
And we're returned to the storm as Smith yells out, "open your parachute, and grab your gun, falling down like an omen, a setting sun." The waves continue with Smith finishing the section pleaing, "gimme one good reason not to do it," and the music again settles.
The melody shifts slightly. "This is the place where time reverses, and dead men talk to all the pretty nurses," Smith sings, "instruments shine on a silver tray, don't let me get carried away."
The other standout song from Basement is the closer 'A Distorted Reality is now a Necessity to be Free' (note that there was no final track sequence - after his death, Smith's family tapped longtime producer/engineer, Rob Schnapf, and Smith's ex-girlfriend, Joanna Bolme, to finish the album, and they set the sequence of the CD). 'A Distorted Reality' starts off with 4 repeated bars of electric keyboard which quickly gives way to an acoustic guitar and Smith singing, "I'm floating in a black balloon, OD on Easter afternoon, my mama told me 'baby stay clean, there's no inbetween.'"
A second verse completes, and Smith lashes out, "you disappoint me, you people raking in on the world, the devil's script sells you the heart of a blackbird." Drums bridge to the refrain, "shine on me baby, cause it's raining in my heart."
The song continues, with accentuated drums, approaching a military march. "So disappointing, first I'll put it all down to luck, God knows why my country don't give a fuck."
The song settles into a guitar and drum groove, accentuated by piano. "Shine on me baby, cause it's raining in my heart," Smith repeats in fading vocals. The whole song grows quieter, with overlayed vocals carrying out over a nostagic piano refrain. And then it's over.
From a Basement on a Hill is certainly Smith's most adventurous work, with perfectly placed samples, odd bits of sound effects, and, at times, an emotional wall of pure noise pop. Through it all, his delicate voice, melancholy mood, and fixation on '60s rock and pop are all presented in a deeply personal work that can't help but draw empathy. Basement is a remarkable recording from a singer/songwriter who music allowed many of us take comfort in sadness.
From the Shins website, KEXP will air a live 6 song set and interview from Gigantic Studios in New York City on Nov 3 at 4:00pm est (for the 2006 CMJ Music Marathon). KEXP is broadcast in the Seattle area on 90.3 and on the internet at www.kexp.org.
... like the retard from [There's] Something About Mary who doesn't like having his ears touched and grabs the dude by his throat. While clinching to his throat, Jeff hauls off and decks him with a punch/open hand slap/shove to the face and [the] dude skirmishes away. Tweedy later apologizes (sort of) and hurries to the point of the set where they bow out before the encore." -- excerpt from Pitchfork Media article.
The article quotes an anonymous reader discussing last night's Wilco show at Springfield, MO's Shrine Mosque. It appears a knuckle-head fan ran onstage about 30 minutes into the set. That's got to be a scary moment if you're Jeff Tweedy. Fortunately no one was shot.
Louisville, Ky., quintet My Morning Jacket soared at this summer's Bonnaroo Festival with a late-night set that earned raves in national magazines and newspapers. Known for their exciting revision of Southern rock and singer Jim James' soaring vocals, MMJ's live shows take audience members on a psychedelic, reverb-heavy journey.
Kasabian's latest release, Empire, builds on the self-titled 2004 debut, adding dizzying strings and a heavy glam-rock stomp to its new songs. Standout tracks include "Shoot The Runner," "Sun Rise Light Flies" and the monstrous title cut.