• In Case You Missed It

    23 Dic 2007, 3:34

    In Case You Missed It is, so I hope, a regular series where I will highlight artists you may have missed, or overlooked.

    Justin Vernon, who goes by the moniker Bon Iver, retreated to the wilderness of Northwest Wisconsin on the eve of Winter. Once there, he composed For Emma, Forever Ago, an album fraught with emotional character defined by the coldness of winter, mirroring the moments experienced while losing love.

    Each song stands as a moment in time. On Skinny Love as he sings, "Someday my pain, someday my pain/Will mark you" his guitar strumming, choir-like voice singing to his lost love, what is revealed is a fiery heart mixed with the betrayal of the moment, and with every heart wrenching word, your heart just sinks for him. You have every desire to reach out, lay your hand on his shoulder, and offer him what little solace you, in your ignorance, can muster.

    The album is a graceful and honest plea to love lost, swathed in winter. It is a warm fire of emotional sincerity, and the perfect album to carry you through these cold, winter months.

    Album highlight: Lump Sum
  • Top 10 Albums of 2007: The Year In Review

    11 Dic 2007, 19:09

    2007 Top Ten Year In Review

    2007 was greatly anticipated, especially since it allowed me to put the tragedies of last year behind and focus my efforts on new academic pursuits. I returned to Athens, where a small bastion of indie music still resides. 2007 still proved to be somewhat tough, albeit much more productive and far happier year.

    As with 2006, music shaped, in large part, my attitude, time, and personal endeavors. I saw some great concerts and discovered even greater music thanks to a cadre of characters from Last.fm. My lists reflect, more than anything, my personal feelings about the music. My reviews are more than mere objective critiques, most especially since I've developed a sort of subjective musical aesthetic short hand for interpreting and describing what I'm listening to; but I digress. Without further ado, I present to you my Top Ten Albums of 2007.

    10. LCD SoundsystemSounds of Silver
    Sure, I first heard about LCD Soundsystem thanks to Pitchfork. Yes, I did buy the album on the recommendation of the snobbiest of indie music critics; but who cares. LCD Soundsystem brings the digital funk.

    As a whole, the album works incredibly well, but for me, the albums attitude is summed up in the track "North American Scum." This album rocks, not just because musically it's spot on brilliant, thanks to lyrics that take all that arrogance, bravado, and ingenuity of the American psyche and wrap it up into one witty, damn good, rocking time. Sound of Silver was, the perfect summer album for 2007.

    9. The Innocence MissionWe Walked In Song
    The Innocence Mission begins We Walked in Song with the hopeful and melodious Brotherhood of Man. "You half look like a painting/Even more than usual," is the kind of line that sticks with you through the day. You are reminded of the first time you first realized someone was beautiful and what being in their presence was like.

    Love That Boy continues this theme. To me, it was a sort of prayer for love as Peris sings "Let him be safe there/Across the Way/I love that boy I say/I love him all the day." One of The Innocence Mission's enduring achievements is their ability to emote this type of emotion without coming across as sappy or cheesy in the least.

    The album ends with My Sisters Return From Ireland, a song seemingly sung from the perspective of a child as she imagines the world that her beloved sister has just returned from. As a whole, the album is a celebration of quiet moments, small miracles and simple beauties. It melts away the cynicism of our age, the ever marching beat of the desire for cool at the core of the indie spirit, in favor of a celebration of life, brotherhood, and family.

    8. Camille Saint-Saens—SAINT-SAENS: Violin Concerto No. 3 / Caprice andalous
    Violin Concerto No. 3 was dedicated to Pablo de Sarasate, a virtuoso violinist in 1880. This release by classical music label BIS, was my first purchase of Saint-Saens compositions. Yes, Violin Concerto No. 3 is rousing, and beautiful and amazingly played. Saint-Saens showed, in his composition, the kind of connection to the violin that I hadn't been exposed to before, and it is this astonishment at the sheer intimacy with the instrument and overall concert that pushed this album right into my top 10 list, without wary an ounce of hesitation.

    7. Panda BearPerson Pitch
    To be honest, I didn't really know what I was in for when I purchased Person Pitch. What I found was a pop album, tinged with the spectre of the Beach Boys, but with a more subversive bend. The opening track, "Comfy In Nautica," gets you clapping your hands, but upon a closer listen, you discover that you're clapping to a song dealing with the swallowing up of innocence by the powers that be, imploring you to ask no questions, but trust implicitly. By the time you get to Bros, you're pretty much hooked. What Panda Bear does so well is to balance experimentalism and pop in a way that makes you cock your head like dogs do when they hear curious sounds all while tapping your hind leg in elation.

    Beyond that, to use the cliche, Person Pitch is hypnotic. Upon my first listen, the album seemed to come and go. I remember thinking to myself, "dang, what did I just hear?" But even with that question swimming in my mind, patches of the album would pop-up in my mind throughout my week, and that, I believe is a characteristic of a great album.

    6. Nina Nastasia & Jim WhiteYou Follow Me
    Nina Nastasia made on my Top 10 list last year, but this year she's out done herself. With the help of Jim White of the band Dirty Three, creates a storied album with atmosphere, emotion and verve.

    Nina is masterful at the craft of storytelling, and joins it with a medium that carries hear emotion through with quietness, and at other times barrels down on the listener with locomotive force. The Day I Would Bury You is an apt example of her giftedness in this area as she sings, Jim drumming with a controlled fervor, "I wanted to tell you again and again/How much I blame you/How hard this has been/I always dreamt of the day I would bury you/I never thought on the day I'd stop hating you." You feel her former passion, and the fact that she's relinquished these formerly fiery emotions as she sings "And I'm not your enemy/Though I lay the band you gave to me/Here as I vowed I would today."

    This album is one for the books, and in my mind will ever remain a classic.

    5. FeistThe Reminder
    When even my mother was mildly disappointed to miss Feist's concert at The Variety Playhouse, I knew Feist had hit on something. 1 2 3 4 would later go on to become a certifiable hit, and my mothers enjoyment of this song, long before the advent of the iPod commercial, testified to this fact.

    The Reminder was far better than I could have expected. I was entirely unprepared for the title track, I'm Sorry; and it took me almost a week before I really went past track one. I'm Sorry set the tone for this album, quickly and emotionally pulling you in, and setting the foundation for what would become a heartfelt journey through angst ridden, confused, triumphant, powerful and befuddled relationships. The album did not let me down for one moment. When I was convinced one song was the Pièce de résistance, I was quickly reprimanded by the next song, which upon several listens would prove itself worthy of the title as well.

    Feist did well in crafting an album that had great depth and feeling, worthy of the discerning listener and entirely accessible to the music listening public at large.

    4. Arcade FireNeon Bible
    Arcade Fire is among the best of what our generation has to offer musically. They set themselves a part by developing albums containing gems that, when strung together, shine with sincere emotional brilliance.

    It's quite clear what Arcade Fire intended to convey when they named their album Neon Bible. I suppose as a Bible thumping Jesus Freak some may think I'd be, at the very least, mildly offended. This is not the case. All great creative works, whether religious or musical, contain themes that Joseph Campbell referred to as 'the hero's journey.' In Neon Bible, mankind as a whole, is the hero, and life, with all its current brash and war like rhetoric, is the journey.

    Just as any theologian would, Arcade Fire uses religious forms, language, and ideas to convey the dangers of our decisions, and to inform us of a world where blind devotion, as opposed to faith ordered by logic, is the rule of the day.

    In the end, Arcade Fire is itself a religious work. Sure, it leans towards humanism, but it seeks to admonish the listener to have faith in man, to uphold our obligation to our fellow man, and be wary of those who would ask us to forsake that call.

    3. RadioheadIn Rainbows
    15 Steps starts by asking the question "Why do I end where I started/Why do I end up where I went wrong?" as if they were fully aware of the questions and doubts that critics and fans alike have entertained since their last studio album. Would Radiohead end up where they began, returning to a familiar formula? Would that action be their undoing? Thankfully, they neither returned to the completely familiar nor deviated so far off the path as to make the sounds on In Rainbows entirely unrecognizable.

    I have not been the biggest Radiohead listener, as I hold to the belief that Radiohead albums deserve careful and intentional listening time; apropos Kid A, an album that furtively undid what readily listenable goodness Radiohead possessed and surreptitiously moved them into the realm of the great rock bands for all time.

    In Rainbows shakes you about through the first two tracks, loosening and easing any reservations you had about this album and then tosses you head first into the cool waters of Nude, arguably the strongest track on the album. Your head starts swimming as the Yorke sings "don't get any big ideas/they're not gonna happen," and you hold to every word as he emotes fear, damnation, but in the waning moments the music elicits a sense of wondering hope.

    Throughout the rest of In Rainbows, Radiohead seems to ask more questions than they answer. It has the feeling of being a polemic in the form of a greek tragedy: grande, moving, and tragic as it begs the listener to heed the warning of the choir.

    2. Julia KentDelay
    Classical music formed a large part of my musical diet this year. Julia Kent is both an exception and the rule, in this case. I discovered her when I was trying to determine whether or not I wanted to by Antony and the Johnsons last album. While reading about Antony on Wikipedia, I learned that there was a cellist named Julia Kent that was a part of his band. Since the cello is my favorite instrument, I had to know more about her. What I discovered blew me away. All the emotion and artistry that I had come to admire in Final Fantasy, but with an instrument whose sound I had fallen in love with as a child.

    Julia Kent creates beautiful and rapturous musical pieces that crawl along like a Hitchcock storyline before blossoming forth in well constructed crescendos. Her songs are never overwhelming, as she is intimately aware of the unique tone and voice of the cello. Her songs are very much like tone poems, and so have a very narrative-like feel. The title track, Gardermoen, reveals, ever so quietly, a world of wonder that at its core works with clock like precision.

    The album as a whole works incredibly well, and each song, given focused listens, will reward with moments of quiet bliss.

    1. Land of TalkApplause Cheer Hiss Boo
    I don't really have much to say about this album except, wow! I don't even remember how or when I discovered Land of Talk, but I sure am glad I did. The album has an intangible element that I have difficulty describing, but that has not failed to let go the entire year.

    The album begins fast and furiously and carries the listener through a sincere and harsh introspective view of youth. It never lets up, and it never surrenders to sort of silly and trite angst that riddles some albums that seek to recall the disordered tragedy of youth.

    The final song, Street Wheels, asks "Are we really in love at all/Is this something real," and you believe Elizabeth Powell when she sings it. Land of Talk album Applause Cheer Hiss Boo is frantic and emotive to be sure, but it is filled with, as I said before intangible elements that play themselves out in both Elizabeth Powell's voice and the band's cohesion and playing style. Sometimes it's best when you can't figure out what makes an album so great, and it's that faith in the beauty of Applause Cheer Hiss Boo that made it my #1 of 2007.
  • Top 10 Albums of 2007 Coming Soon

    7 Dic 2007, 19:20

    Well, there has been some clamoring for my list of the top 10 albums of 2007, and as a good southern gentleman, I aim to please in the most gentile, refined way possible with plenty of indie music goodness.

    I've finished writing three of my year end reviews for Nina Nastasia & Jim White, Radiohead, and The Innocence Mission. There has been some recent reshuffling in my top 10, but rest assured, it will be well worth the wait.
  • Julia Fischer, You're A Winner!

    31 Oct 2007, 19:24

    Violinist Julia Fischer recently won Artist of the Year at the 2007 Classic FM Gramophone Awards. If you aren't into classical music, the performances of this virtuoso will be quite a treat.

    I've purchased two of Julia's albums in the past year, and both have catapulted themselves into both my top rated and top played albums (though Last.fm may not reflect that given her albums absence from the system). I highly recommend her performance on Pentatone's release TCHAIKOVSKY: Violin Concerto / Souvenir d'un lieu cher / Serenade melancolique / Valse - Scherzo. There is no doubt in my mind that she's earned the title virtuoso, and I'm sure she will continue to regal us with her skill and artistry for years to come.

    For an apt display of her skill and mastery of the violin, check out this video.

  • Fall Music Preview

    10 Oct 2007, 19:45

    Fall Music Preview--Fall 2007

    It has been said that writers should write first for themselves, an audience of one. In a similar spirit, I am writing this Fall Music Preview first and foremost for myself with the hopes that anyone who does read it will find some pleasure in the recommendations that follow.

    Of the four seasons, I look forward to autumn the most. It's short, sweet, and cool, temperature wise that is. Autumn is a season, that for me, requires it's own unique soundtrack. There is music that, while I can listen to it any time of the year, feels the most comfortable in the fall. Many of my favorite tracks carry with them strong sensations tied to the fall, such as a light breeze caressing my face while shades of red and yellow twirl and spin in an invisible sea suspended in mid air.

    Now that I've properly described the feelings that fall invokes, let's get on to the music picks.

    Marla Hansen - Wedding Day
    Marla Hansen's EP, Wedding Day, is simple enough. It doesn't rely on extremely witty lyrics, or experimental arrangements and compositions. Instead, Ms. Hansen tells simple stories that give you pause, reflecting on our shared experiences. Wedding Day is quiet, pleasing, and a great start for any fall mixtape.

    Joan As Police Woman - Real Life
    Where Marla Hansen tended to reminisce quietly with simple lyrics, Joan As Police Woman charges forward with an undercurrent of emotion wrapped in carefully crafted words. Joan's songs require repeat listens in muted environments. They are songs that are meant for the fall, a time for contemplation of the warmth of the seasons past, and the coldness that will soon follow.

    Midlake - The Trials Of Van Occupanther
    Midlake's The Trials of Van Occupanther was a wonderful find for me. Well, actually I didn't find it. I have my friend Jeremy to thank for this find. Van Occupanther is like opening a leather bound book. There is a weight and depth, but musically it is constructed in such a way that it seems to bare you up on light winds across open fields.

    Beirut - The Flying Cup Club
    I've written about Beirut before, and what I previously wrote still stands. Beirut's Eastern European sound is done in a way that doesn't make it sound needlessly sappy or nostalgic. It borrows and dolls out, in well defined doses, old world sounds and new world lyrics.

    The Most Serene Republic - Population
    A new find for me, The Most Serene Republic lives up to it's name. Serene and balanced serene instrumentals with carefully crafted lyrics. The album teeters on the edge of chaos, painting with large strokes that form sweeping crescendos which are then sublimated with quiet interludes.

    Club 8 - The Boy Who Couldn't Stop Dreaming
    An album that carries interesting spiritual themes, The Boy Who Couldn't Stop Dreaming, is quite dream like, but not so dreamy that it will put you right to sleep. Rather, Dreaming will pull you more into day-dreaming as you dare to contemplate its not-so-subtle themes of faith and belief.

    Radiohead--In Rainbows
    Finally released from the grasp of the draconian music label EMI, Radiohead has forged ahead into new and uncharted territory as a true independent band. They gained a great deal of press after the announced that their album would be available for download, and that you can set the price for the album. Now, when I say set the price, I mean just that. Want to set it the price at zero? Go ahead, set it for zero. What you will find, if you choose to set the price at zero, is that the album is worth so much more. Like Radiohead albums of the past, this one will transport you into a unique headspace. A writer over at Gorilla vs. Bear noted that the sequence of track 6 through 8 is perfect, and I couldn't agree more, though I found 15 Steps to be a perfect beginning. It opened the door to a world that at first seems innocent and child like but is revealed to be so much more.
  • Flight of the Conchords

    17 Ago 2007, 2:04

    Flight of the Conchords is a New Zealand pop/comedy band of sorts that has a show that, in a moment, will have you rolling out of your seat with laughter.

  • She Wears Red

    20 Jun 2007, 2:23

    This is Feist's new song that I referred to in my concert review that I fell in love with. I'm sure you'll all in love with it as well.

  • Past in Present

    16 Jun 2007, 21:11

    Fri 15 Jun – Feist, Grizzly Bear

    I can't help but wonder about the actual vocal talent of the artists whose albums I buy. "Do they actually sound as good in real life as they do on the album," I wonder, quietly in my head. In the case of Leslie Feist, the answer is a resounding yes. Feist moves across the musical scale with ease, drawing you in with every exhalation of her hypnotic voice.

    Feist started the show off with When I Was a Young Girl that started the folks grooving who were standing in front. Hearing this song live was quite a treat, as Feist was able to highlight her considerable talent on the guitar; a talent that, until last night, I was entirely unaware she possessed. Shame on me.

    That talent was taken to it's highest point in a song she played that was actually written when she lived in Germany, three years ago. She played solo guitar, with no accompaniment, and looped part of the guitar piece during the song. Modern technology is great. I, for one, am hoping I can find that song online somewhere. If anyone knows the name, please, let me know.

    One of the more interesting highlights of the night was when she caught a concert-goer filming her with, not a digital camera with video capabilities, but a full fledged video camcorder. That was quickly squashed by Feist's "thug." The incident did offer a bit of comedy, and brought to light her ability to really interact with the crowd, and make them a part of the show.

    When she played 1 2 3 4, her trumpet player taught the crowd part for the chorus, as in a group of singers, not the chorus of a song, and asked us to sign along. The crowd didn't have any trouble getting right into the act, clapping, "dah dum de dah dum'ing" and shaking their hot, sweaty hips. Yeah, it was dang hot in there.

    While Feist didn't play one of my favs from her new album, [track artist=Feist]Past In Present, the show was, nonetheless, a pleasure and a joy. I am still awe struck when I think about her vocal talent, and how she delivered raw emotion, playfulness, and damn fun time in Atlanta.
  • Sounds Fall in June

    8 Jun 2007, 2:06

    Wed 6 Jun – Calvin Johnson, Julie Doiron, Isia Cooper

    I bought my tickets for this concert a week before the show. During that week I questioned, on several occasions, whether or not I would actually go the show. After hearing Julie Doiron live, and talking with her briefly, I know I made the right decision.

    My friend Drake and I arrived there late, having experienced a great deal of difficulty actually locating The Drunken Unicorn. I feared we'd arrive somewhere near the end of her set. Drake assured me we'd be fine, but I wasn't so sure. So, I ask the doorman "How long has she been on?" Doorman replies, "Well . . . actually she just went on."

    Needless to say, that made me happy, very happy.

    Julie Doiron provided a much better live experience than I expected. She was kind, engaging, and playful. She played several of her more well known songs (well known to fans that is) and interpreted them in unique and varied ways that, for me, brought them alive in a manner befitting a live show.

    Her performance of Yer Kids was much more than I expected. She stayed true to the album recording while being entirely aware of her current surroundings and thusly providing the song with the appropriate variations needed to bring it to life in the intimate venue that is Drunken Unicorn.

    Afterwards, I chatted with her about her touring experience. She confirmed a reality that I feared was true: the US, and the south especially, is not the greatest place for independent artists to tour. She said she was hesitant to do another tour in the US after her first cost her money. Even so, she was willing to brave the unsure waters of fickle US fans.

    I purchased one of her previous albums. She recommended Goodnight Nobody. What I found so amazing in her recommendation is her obvious personal connection to her work. She wanted me to experience what was near and close to her, an action I found endearing as well as flattering.

    I hope that Julie Doiron returns to Atlanta, and also makes a side trek to Athens, but this time riding in on a wave of local fan support that is ready to pack any and every venue she plays in while she is in Georgia. She definitely deserves that, and so much more.
  • Once Is All You Need

    3 Jun 2007, 2:18

    There are times when artistic elements converge through the concerted effort of visionary individuals and yields something beautifully surreal, and entirely memorable. The movie "Once," featuring the music of Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova, seems to be just that. Movies like this is the reason I tried, for a brief time, to be a part of the film industry and make my creative mark on the world.