Archive | July, 2009

Rewind Review: Acid Tongue

23 Jul

Jenny Lewis

I am enraptured by Jenny Lewis.  Her voice is quite simply intoxicating, and her lyrics are droll and devastating.  Between her work with Rilo Kiley, Postal Service and on her own it is pretty clear that she is one of those soon to be iconic artists of our time.    

Yes, yes – I know, I was once again late to the party on this one.  I vaguely knew it happened but it took me forever to get off my ass and actually get the album.  Holy Hell am I glad I finally did.  Musical addictions seem to pass quickly these days when getting a new album is but a click away and your ipod can carry hundreds of albums at a time.  But I have been listening to Acid Tongue almost exclusively for the last week and the few albums that do squeeze in some valuable tune-time are harshly graded against its high standard.  Its the kind of album you felt you’ve heard a hundred times but still somehow feels completely new.  

Acid Tongue takes many cues from the country rock of decades past.  Not unfamiliar territory for Lewis, especially considering her first release.  Rabbit Fur Coat seemed to strain under the stress of its tightly woven material, as though there were vast reserves of untapped energy in each song.  This album has a far looser composition and almost every track drips with distorted guitar and lush quivering vocals.  Ranging from low tempo ballads like ‘Pretty Bird’ to epic 8 minute raucous medley’s like ‘The Last Messiah’ the album sounds like nothing she has done before, yet clearly borrows experience from each of her previous releases.  

Jenny Lewis

Helping to round out the sound of the album, and contributing most of those seductive guitar licks is Johnathan Rice.  In fact ‘Carpetbaggers’, a duet with Elvis Costello, was penned for Lewis by Rice.  Unsurprisingly, they’re dating.  It is the kind of match indie music dreams are made of and results in some pretty powerful music to say the least.  

In trolling the internet to find out what others had to say about this album I was surprised by the amount of reviews claiming that Lewis’s songwriting suffered under the weight of the genre’s she chose to recreate.  Almost as though they were a straight-jacket on her creativity.  I couldn’t disagree more.  While I do think it’s obvious by listening to it that this is only one facet of an already accomplished lyricist, it also clearly served as a playground for a talent that could already go any direction it wanted.  And frankly I am more than happy to go anywhere Jenny Lewis cares to take me.  Especially if it sounds this good.


New Crush: Lovers

15 Jul


This is a post I have been meaning to do for months.  When I (finally) visited Portland in May I knew I had to see a show, it really almost didn’t even matter who it was so long as a show was seen.   So I picked up a copy of the Portland Mercury to see what was going on and decided to see Lovers, a band I had previously never heard of before, play at the Branx.  This is something I don’t do nearly enough in New York.  Sure going to see shows blind, so to speak, can lead to more than a few duds, but to see a really good band without any preconception of what they are all about and where they are going to take you is a pretty amazing experience.  Lovers, I soon found out, were just such a band.

Singer-songwriter Carolyn Berk and current collaborators Emily Kingan (The Haggard) and Kerby Ferris (Fantasmina) took the stage and began playing songs from their newest release “I Am The West”.  Almost instantaneously I began grinning like an idiot.  This is a common occurrence for me when I hear new music that I really, really like, and I’m sure it makes me tons of friends. Funny how it only takes a second to fall in love – both in life and in music.

LoversI left Portland the next day and, much to Tory’s amusement, started grinning uncontrollably yet again as I listened to the album for the first time while on a train to Seattle.  It was a welcome surprise when the album lived up to the promise of the night before, the material just as spirited and sincere as it was in person.  Without the hum and distortion of small venue acoustics the songs could breathe within the fine tuned landscapes of their production.  Even more refreshing – Berk’s voice and lyrics, both of which had been hard to hear on account of being distracted by all the grinning, turn out to be wonderfully earnest and inviting.

“I Am The West” has remained on constant rotation for me since then, a good two months now, and I continue to revel in it.  So, in truth this post is not so much a review as it is a plea.  A plea for anyone out there reading this to please, please check out this band if for no other reason than I, your humble blogger, am in love with them and think you should be too.

The end.

Credit Check: Dead Like Me

9 Jul

dead_like_meHulu is a funny thing. As a person who loves a good ongoing story (read: loves the conceit of TV shows) but does not in fact own a TV, I am quite happy that it, and others like it, exist. And with such success no less.

So much success in fact that it has managed, almost single-handedly, to revive a little show like Dead Like Me that was cancelled due to low ratings in 2004. Almost everyone I know seems to have become spontaneously aware of the show’s existence and have been raving about it, both online and off, ever since its inclusion to the Hulu catalog. So I am left with one question to ask.

Hulu – where were you 5 years ago?

For those who haven’t yet seen it the show, created by one of my favs Mr. Bryan Fuller,  is a brilliantly funny and sarcastic look at death and the trails of office work. Both at the same time. And all through the eyes of a recently deceased 20-something grim reaper. Now I ask you. If that doesn’t sound like pure genius, than what does? The opener has always held a soft spot in my heart, finding a perfect balance point that the shows unique humor is constantly teetering on. The music, for those curious, was composed by Stewart Copeland (aka drummer/percussionist for The Police). Who knew?

St Vincent

9 Jul

St Vincent

Zut Alors! Late again!  this time by a lot too.  Whoops.   Well, I have been listening to tons of music lately, mostly country of various types actually (more on that later), but I have finally, finally found time to sneak in some tune time for St. Vincent’s latest album Actor.  It is quite good.  But then that was almost a given.  It does have more breadth than her previous work which provides for a welcome rounding out of her sound.  Rather than venturing perhaps a little too far into the land of atonality as compositional exercise the new album favors a wider use of heavier distorted guitars to provide the same effect but without breaking the spell of her extremely well crafted lyrics.

In short, I dig it.  As does the New York Times apparently who published a pretty rad article on Ms. Annie Clark herself.  For those for those who missed it, you can check it out here.

She has also announced a tour with Andrew Bird this fall after she finishes a smaller solo round of touring.  Check out the dates on her website.  And until such time as you can see her live here’s a video of her recent performance on Letterman. I find his reaction at the end pretty funny.  Enjoy.