A.C. Newman: Get Guilty (2009)

Album Cover via eMusic

A.C. Newman
Get Guilty; 2009
Matador Records

My Rating: 74/100

Power-Pop Hitman Guilty As Sin

I have a guilty pleasure I need to admit: I am a huge fan of pop superstar Phil Collins, especially his mid-80’s heyday. I am such a fan that I recently created a mix CD entitled “Phil Collins Galore.” Something about that man’s music simply butters my bread. Still, whenever I ponder the career of (the original) Dr. Phil, I often scratch my head about the ping-ponging he did between his solo career and Genesis, because when it all comes down to it, for the longest time I couldn’t differentiate between the two. In fact, at this given moment, I couldn’t tell you whether “Sussudio” is a Genesis or a Phil track. And that’s the way I feel about A.C. Newman’s solo work. Unlike the other two major indie artists working in the New Pornographers (Dan Bejar of Destroyer & Neko Case), Newman’s eponymous output  bears little immediate difference from the NP-sound. It can lead one to cynicism about the whole affair: “Why even bother?” However, a few careful listens to Newman’s second full-length shine a spotlight on the specific and dissimilar merits contained therein. For starters, there’s a rhythmic angularity and experimentalism that is, for the most part, absent from the hyperactive power pop of New Pornographers (“Like A Hitman, Like A Dancer”, “Elemental”), in large part thanks to the unorthodox drumming of Superchunk’s John Wurster. Second, while the songs are hooky and immediately accessible (“Young Atlantis”, “Prophets”), they are also deeply mysterious and entirely unyielding. These are tracks you can dwell in for a good while, discovering additional layers here and there to relish. Third, because he isn’t forced to share the spotlight with anyone else, we get to focus on Newman’s greatest strenghth: his penchant for writing memorable and distinguishable pop songs. Overall, Newman is at his best when he builds the song around a mind-blowing hook and lets it breath. His esoteric/enigmatic lyrics don’t distract so much then, but instead become the alternate universe into which we are initiated by a hummable, repeatable motif.  Get Guilty provides clear indication that Newman’s solo career is not merely a vanity affair. The record is an impeccably-crafted album of left-field baroque pop gems, as satisfying as any of the New Pornographers’ long-players, and ultimately the work of a master craftsman. Highly recommended.

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (4/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Consistency (4/5)

Tracks:

1. There Are Maybe Ten or Twelve (4/5)
2. The Heartbreak Rides (5/5)
3. Like A Hitman, Like A Dancer (4/5)
4. Prophets (5/5)
5. Submarines Of Stockholm (5/5)
6. Thunderbolts (3.5/5)
7. The Palace At 4AM (4/5)
8. The Changeling (Get Guilty) (3.5/5)
9. Elemental (4/5)
10. Young Atlantis (5/5)
11. The Collected Works (4/5)
12. All Of My Days And All Of My Days Off (5/5)

What do you think of A.C. Newman’s Get Guilty?

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Real Estate: s/t LP (2009)

Real Estate
Real Estate
Woodsist; 2009

My Rating: 95/100

As a kid, I never stepped foot on a beach north of Cumberland Island, Georgia. I was a complete southern surf snob, and to this day I find myself cringing at the thought of putting my bare feet onto oceanside territory north of Myrtle Beach. Jersey shores? I would have said a big “no way” even a year ago, but having had the opportunity to bask in the warm, slow sunrise of Jersey’s own Real Estate for the last few months, I might just learn to see the Garden State’s beaches in a different light. Real Estate is neck and neck with The Low Anthem for my favorite breakthrough act of 2009, and the more time I spend with their eponymous debut, the more these beach kings seem fit to ascend. At first, Real Estate rubs off like any given garage act recorded on a ceiling-suspended vocal mic, with a few gobs of vaseline slathered on for maximum haze. But for all the amateurism apparent in the recording quality, this record achieves the same lo-fi grandeur that Pavement achieved with Slanted & Enchanted, resulting in a magical, misty band-next-door aura shot through with melody and wit. The album wins because the songs themselves are gorgeous and perfect. The chattery, twin guitar interplay of Mathew Mondanile and Martin Courtney dwells on the winsome side of the Marquee Moon, and Etienne Duguay’s understated percussion shepherds the tracks into dreamland. It’s hard to identify standouts because this is an incredibly consistent record, but I’d to say my top three are “Beach Comber”, “Green River”, and “Suburban Beverage.” Overall, this is a record brimming with nostalgia and good vibrations, as true to the beach life as you can get. It also might be the last classic debut LP of the decade now past, but for what its worth, I think it makes the case that Real Estate’s best days lay ahead of us.

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Consistency (5/5)

Tracks:

1. Beach Comber (5/5)
2. Pool Swimmers (5/5)
3. Suburban Dogs (5/5)
4. Black Lake (5/5)
5. Atlantic City (5/5)
6. Fake Blues (5/5)
7. Green River (5/5)
8. Suburban Beverage (5/5)
9. Let’s Rock the Beach (5/5)
10. Snow Day (5/5)

Big Star: #1 Record (1972)

Big Star
#1 Record
Ardent/Stax; 1972

My Rating: 100/100

Just what can be said about this record that hasn’t already been said, especially in the last few weeks? It’s brilliant, no doubt. And while it was legendarily ignored upon its initial release, it has since become the universally recognized stepping off point for all things power pop. You don’t need me to tell you any of that. All I can really say is that for every year that my youth fades into the rearview mirror, this record gets a little sadder and a little sweeter, all at the same time. With the record’s two chief songwriters having since departed for Indias all their own, even the sunny, powerhouse optimism of lines like “You give me life/And that’s right” come off as bittersweet at best. Over the years, I’ve come to love the song “When My Baby’s Beside Me” most of all, but there is no denying the overpowering nostalgia of “Thirteen”, a song so fragrant and pacifying you’ll feel like you’re slowly slipping into a Downy commercial. God, can any other song make a grown man cry? Whenever I hear it, I visualize all of my childhood friends, bridging the gap between innocence and experience, naive and childish, without a clue and all the better for it. Who wouldn’t want to capture that era forever? Chilton did it in that single song, but the full set of twelve manages to grab all the other angles as well. As I close this review, I’m struck by my utter inability to communicate all that this album means to me. I’d rather just let it speak for itself…

Once I walked a lonely road
Had no one to share my love
But then you came and showed the way
And now I hope you’re here to stay...”

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (5/5)

Tracks:

1. Feel (5/5)
2. The Ballad of El Goodo (5/5)
3. In the Street (5/5)
4. Thirteen (5/5)
5. Don’t Lie to Me (5/5)
6. The India Song (5/5)
7. When My Baby’s Beside Me (5/5)
8. My Life Is Right (5/5)
9. Give Me Another Chance (5/5)
10. Try Again (5/5)
11. Watch the Sunrise (5/5)
12. ST 100/6 (5/5)

Second Story Man: Screaming Secrets (2010)

Second Story Man
Screaming Secrets
Noise Pollution; 2010

My Rating: 69/100

Tragically under-recognized Louisville band delivers a solid third full-length…

Having grown up in Louisville, I’m astonished to say that while I have known of Second Story Man for years now, their third long player SCREAMING SECRETS is my first full length exposure to the band. I’m not really sure why. As a 90’s scene kid, I was a fan of the members’ work in bands like Itch House and The Flats, but for whatever reason, Second Story Man have managed to hover just below the national radar for 12 years now. While they have toured occasionally with the likes of Shipping News and Sebadoh, they have otherwise contented themselves with churning out apparently masterful noise pop records whenever the mood strikes them. So unfortunately, I can’t really speak to Second Story Man’s growth as a band, but I can attest to the fact that this is a marvelous record that will most likely go tragically under-recognized. SECRETS succeeds by finding a Beatles-esque middle way between the ultra-dynamic river city indie of hometown greats like Slint and Rodan and the scrappy indie pop of early 90’s Chapel Hill bands like Superchunk and Polvo. While opener “The Want Within the Need” and A-side closer “Traffic Jams” attest that the band can rock at full-power, I find myself continually drawn to the lilting and lush “Quietly” and the pastoral acousti-pop of “Suicide Dream.” Elsewhere, the dissonance of “Flies” recalls Murray Street-era Sonic Youth, and “The Mav” best exemplifies the band’s powerful dual vocal approach. Given the overall quality of SCREAMING SECRETS, I’ll definitely search out the band’s back catalog. Having grown into this record over the last few months, I can entusiastically say that it’s high time the world get to know Second Story Man.

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (4/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Consistency (4/5)


Tracks:

1. The Want Within the Need (4.5/5)
2. Clocks (4.5/5)
3. OompaLoompa (4/5)
4. Quietly (5/5)
5. Traffic Jams (4/5)
6. Flies (3.5/5)
7. The Mav (4/5)
8. Floor Falls Out (3/5)
9. Suicide Dream (4.5/5)
10. Bottom Line (3.5/5)

START WITH: Quietly, The Mav, The Want Within the Need

Death Cab for Cutie: Transatlanticism (2003)

Death Cab for Cutie
Transatlanticism; 2003
Barsuk Records
My Rating: 85/100
I’m a pretty late comer to the DCFC-wagon, and I’m far more familiar with their later work than early. However, I’m conversant enough with the band’s first three full-lengths to recognize that TRANSATLANTICISM is pivotal. Achieving the sort of sonic magic that warrants classic status, the band combines the rain-soaked majesty of Seattle forebears like Sunny Day Real Estate and the overcast atmospherism of The Cure to create a masterpiece. Seriously, no record has achieved such lovely and resplendent mope-aggression since Sunny Day’s own DIARY nine years prior. There are a handful of absolute classics, such as “Title and Registration”, “The Sound of Settling”, even the glacial “Transatlanticism,” while several other tracks come close to achieving classic status (“The New Year”, “We Looked Like Giants”). Yet the overarching thematic structure, the sense that the record is a seamless work of art, sets TRANSATLANTICISM above the fray of second and third generation emo-albums. The only fault I can find is that some of the tracks can arrive at their ends feeling unfinished, such as the otherwise fantastic “The New Year.” Overall, though, Death Cab proves with TRANSATLANTICISM that they are entirely capable of transcending their emo roots in much the same way that Radiohead left Brit Rock in its wake or Wilco big adieu to Alt Country. Like any great album, TRANSATLANTICISM pulls you into its world. It’s a beautiful waking dream and a fantastic listen.
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (4/5)
Tracks:
1. The New Year (4.5/5)
2. Lightness (4.5/5)
3. Title and Registration (5/5)
4. Expo ’86 (4.5/5)
5. The Sound of Settling (5/5)
6. Tiny Vessels (4/5)
7. Transatlanticism (5/5)
8. Passenger Seat (4/5)
9. Death of an Interior Decorator (4/5)
10. We Looked Like Giants (4.5/5)
11. A Lack of Color (4/5)
My Top 5 Moments:
5. all of “The Sound of Settling”
4. the lyrical passage beginning “Well everybody put your best suit or dress on” in “The New Year”
3. the angulo-elliptical acoustic guitar riff that creates “Title and Registration”
2. the DISINTEGRATION-esque atmospherics
1. the climactic “Come on!!!” chorus of “Transatlanticism”

TransatlanticismDeath Cab for Cutie
Transatlanticism; 2003
Barsuk Records

My Rating: 85/100

I’m a pretty late comer to the DCFC-wagon, and I’m far more familiar with their later work than early. However, I’m conversant enough with the band’s first three full-lengths to recognize that TRANSATLANTICISM is pivotal. Achieving the sort of sonic magic that warrants classic status, the band combines the rain-soaked majesty of Seattle forebears like Sunny Day Real Estate and the overcast atmospherism of The Cure to create a masterpiece. Seriously, no record has achieved such lovely and resplendent mope-aggression since Sunny Day’s own DIARY nine years prior. There are a handful of absolute classics, such as “Title and Registration”, “The Sound of Settling”, even the glacial “Transatlanticism,” while several other tracks come close to achieving classic status (“The New Year”, “We Looked Like Giants”). Yet the overarching thematic structure, the sense that the record is a seamless work of art, sets TRANSATLANTICISM above the fray of second and third generation emo-albums. The only fault I can find is that some of the tracks can arrive at their ends feeling unfinished, such as the otherwise fantastic “The New Year.” Overall, though, Death Cab proves with TRANSATLANTICISM that they are entirely capable of transcending their emo roots in much the same way that Radiohead left Brit Rock in its wake or Wilco big adieu to Alt Country. Like any great album, TRANSATLANTICISM pulls you into its world. It’s a beautiful waking dream and a fantastic listen.

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (4/5)

Tracks:

1. The New Year (4.5/5)
2. Lightness (4.5/5)
3. Title and Registration (5/5)
4. Expo ’86 (4.5/5)
5. The Sound of Settling (5/5)
6. Tiny Vessels (4/5)
7. Transatlanticism (5/5)
8. Passenger Seat (4/5)
9. Death of an Interior Decorator (4/5)
10. We Looked Like Giants (4.5/5)
11. A Lack of Color (4/5)

My Top 5 Moments:

5. all of “The Sound of Settling”
4. the lyrical passage beginning “Well everybody put your best suit or dress on” in “The New Year”
3. the angulo-elliptical acoustic guitar riff that creates “Title and Registration”
2. the DISINTEGRATION-esque atmospherics
1. the climactic “Come on!!!” chorus of “Transatlanticism”

Hem: Rabbit Songs (2002)

Hem
Rabbit Songs; 2002
Dreamworks
My Rating: 80/100
I’ve heard Hem’s style called Country-Politan, but I’d term it High Americana. While most alt-country bands keep their noses in the dirt, HEM spends their time looking for the flowers in the old gardens of American music, putting the emphasis on Bernstein more than Guthrie. In this sense, Hem’s debut remains a landmark. There’s none of the irony of punk kids singing gospel songs with a Tennessee twang to be found, only the sweetness of the symphony and the angelic timbre of Sally Ellyson. Let me just ask: who’s done anything like this before or since? Sure, there are moments when the lush orchestration threatens a comfortably numb monotony, but there are too many brilliant songs here, from “Half Acre” to “Idle” to “Stupid Mouth Shut”, to let it happen. Although RABBIT SONGS is not the place to start with HEM, as it lags and loses focus toward the end, it is nevertheless a great debut. Highly recommended for the starry-eyed soul.
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (4/5)
Tracks:
1. Lord, Blow the Moon Out Please
2. When I Was Drinking (4/5)
3. Half Acre (5/5)
4. Burying Song
5. Betting on Trains (4.5/5)
6. Leave Me Here (4.5/5)
7. All That I’m Good For (4/5)
8. Idle (The Rabbit Song) (5/5)
9. Stupid Mouth Shut (5/5)
10. Lazy Eye (4/5)
11. Sailor (4/5)
12. Polly’s Dress
13. Night Like a River (3.5/5)
14. The Cuckoo (3.5/5)
15. Waltz (4/5)
16. Horsey (4/5)

rabbitsongsHem
Rabbit Songs; 2002
Dreamworks

My Rating: 80/100

I’ve heard Hem’s style called Country-Politan, but I’d term it High Americana. While most alt-country bands keep their noses in the dirt, HEM spends their time looking for the flowers in the old gardens of American music, putting the emphasis on Bernstein more than Guthrie. In this sense, Hem’s debut remains a landmark. There’s none of the irony of punk kids singing gospel songs with a Tennessee twang to be found, only the sweetness of the symphony and the angelic timbre of Sally Ellyson. Let me just ask: who’s done anything like this before or since? Sure, there are moments when the lush orchestration threatens a comfortably numb monotony, but there are too many brilliant songs here, from “Half Acre” to “Idle” to “Stupid Mouth Shut”, to let it happen. Although RABBIT SONGS is not the place to start with HEM, as it lags and loses focus toward the end, it is nevertheless a great debut. Highly recommended for the starry-eyed soul.

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (4/5)

Tracks:

1. Lord, Blow the Moon Out Please
2. When I Was Drinking (4/5)
3. Half Acre (5/5)
4. Burying Song
5. Betting on Trains (4.5/5)
6. Leave Me Here (4.5/5)
7. All That I’m Good For (4/5)
8. Idle (The Rabbit Song) (5/5)
9. Stupid Mouth Shut (5/5)
10. Lazy Eye (4/5)
11. Sailor (4/5)
12. Polly’s Dress
13. Night Like a River (3.5/5)
14. The Cuckoo (3.5/5)
15. Waltz (4/5)
16. Horsey (4/5)

Mark Knopfler: The Ragpicker’s Dream (2002)

Mark Knopfler
The Ragpicker’s Dream; 2002
Warner Brothers
My Rating: 89/100
Singular. If Mark Knopfler has proved anything in the new millenium, it is that his years spent as the frontman for the Dire Straits were merely formative. His most vital and meaningful work has happened in the last fifteen years, and at this point, there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight to his latter day glories. His third solo effort, THE RAGPICKER’S DREAM, is his greatest, and a classic album, though criminally under-recognized at present. Knopfler’s genius as a solo artist rests in combining the pub-to-prog rock aesthetic of his Dire Straits era with the atmospherics and localization of his numerous soundtrack works, such as THE PRINCESS BRIDE and LOCAL HERO. While “Why Aye Man” certainly harkens back to the Dire Straits track “Calling Elvis”, the music transports the listener to the world of German expatriates seeking a new and better life. “Hill Farmer’s Blues” similarly transcends its folkish roots and finds an epic arc, yet Knopfler can keep it light and matter-of-fact just a few tracks later with “Quality Shoe.” Still, RAGPICKER’S canonical status is afforded by its sheer vision. For all of its inherent darkness, it is a hopeful and idealistic record, a musical good times brew. While Knopfler sings with deep sadness of “A Place Where We Used to Live”, he also sums it all up in optimistic fashion with the title track. A “ragpicker”, says Merriam-Webster, is “one who collects rags and refuse for a livelihood.” Thus, THE RAGPICKER’S DREAM may well be the Knopfler album most representative of his vision, a collection of tracks yielding to the simple joys of human existence, a theme wondrously captured in the Elliott Erwitt photo that graces the cover. It’s a “mulligan stew” of pure delights, a feast of the “brotherhood of man.” Now go on and dig in.
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Consistency (5/5)
Tracks:
1. Why Aye Man (5/5)
2. Devil Baby (5/5)
3. Hill Farmer’s Blues (5/5)
4. A Place Where We Used to Live (5/5)
5. Quality Shoe (5/5)
6. Fare Thee Well Northumberland (4/5)
7. Marbletown (5/5)
8. You Don’t Know You’re Born (4/5)
9. Coyote (4/5)
10. The Ragpicker’s Dream (5/5)
11. Daddy’s Gone to Knoxville (4/5)
12. Old Pigweed (5/5)

the ragpicker's dream-mark knopflerMark Knopfler
The Ragpicker’s Dream; 2002
Warner Brothers

My Rating: 89/100

Singular. If Mark Knopfler has proved anything in the new millenium, it is that his years spent as the frontman for the Dire Straits were merely formative. His most vital and meaningful work has happened in the last fifteen years, and at this point, there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight to his latter day glories. His third solo effort, THE RAGPICKER’S DREAM, is his greatest, and a classic album, though criminally under-recognized at present. Knopfler’s genius as a solo artist rests in combining the pub-to-prog rock aesthetic of his Dire Straits era with the atmospherics and localization of his numerous soundtrack works, such as THE PRINCESS BRIDE and LOCAL HERO. While “Why Aye Man” certainly harkens back to the Dire Straits track “Calling Elvis”, the music transports the listener to the world of British expatriates seeking a new and better life in Germany. “Hill Farmer’s Blues” similarly transcends its folkish roots and finds an epic arc, yet Knopfler can keep it light and matter-of-fact just a few tracks later with “Quality Shoe.” Still, RAGPICKER’S canonical status is afforded by its sheer vision. For all of its inherent darkness, it is a hopeful and idealistic record, a musical good times brew. While Knopfler sings with deep sadness of “A Place Where We Used to Live”, he also sums it all up in optimistic fashion with the title track. A “ragpicker”, says Merriam-Webster, is “one who collects rags and refuse for a livelihood.” Thus, THE RAGPICKER’S DREAM may well be the Knopfler album most representative of his vision, a collection of tracks yielding to the simple joys of human existence, a theme wondrously captured in the Elliott Erwitt photo that graces the cover. It’s a “mulligan stew” of pure delights, a feast of the “brotherhood of man.” Now go on and dig in.

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Consistency (5/5)

Tracks:

1. Why Aye Man (5/5)
2. Devil Baby (5/5)
3. Hill Farmer’s Blues (5/5)
4. A Place Where We Used to Live (5/5)
5. Quality Shoe (5/5)
6. Fare Thee Well Northumberland (4/5)
7. Marbletown (5/5)
8. You Don’t Know You’re Born (4/5)
9. Coyote (4/5)
10. The Ragpicker’s Dream (5/5)
11. Daddy’s Gone to Knoxville (4/5)
12. Old Pigweed (5/5)

Pavement: Slanted & Enchanted (1992)

Pavement
Slanted & Enchanted; 1992
Matador Records
My Rating: 88/100
There aren’t many records that I would call “incredibly pretentious” and “brilliant” all in the same breath, but here it goes: SLANTED & ENCHANTED is brilliant in an incredibly pretentious sort of way. For the novice, Pavement’s debut will most likely sound like the schizophrenic garage-band antics of middle-class white kids who’ve been playing their instruments for, oh, three weeks. But don’t be so shallow, you! Here’s the big secret: Pavement could write some great songs! Yes, beneath all the fuzz there’s a juicy fruit waiting to be enjoyed, but SLANTED & ENCHANTED can’t be approached head-on. You have to accept the inherent contradictions (the inverted beauty of “In the Mouth a Desert”), the off-kilter rhythms (“Conduit for Sale!”), and the off-key guitars (“Zurich is Stained”) on their own terms. When you do, you’ll start to see them as a necessary part of the experience. “Here” wouldn’t be nearly so great in the hands of someone with a soulful voice – there’s an undeniable authenticity in Malkmus straining to hit those high notes. But the record’s title really says it all: these songs come from a world of paradoxic landscapes and schizoid vision, the sound of running Escher’s and Picasso’s collected works through a blender. Every piece has its place, and while some tracks are better (“Trigger Cut”, “Two States”) than others (“No Life Singed Her”, “Our Singer”), SLANTED & ENCHANTED is a jigsaw that wouldn’t quite fit together if a note was missing. Obtuse? Yes. Inscrutable? Fer sure. Esoteric? To a point. A waste of time? Not at all. Give SLANTED & ENCHANTED as many listens as it takes. You will believe.
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (4/5)
Tracks:
1. Summer Babe (Winter Version) (4.5/5)
2. Trigger Cut/Wounded-Kite at :17 (5/5)
3. No Life Singed Her (4/5)
4. In the Mouth a Desert (5/5)
5. Conduit Sale! (5/5)
6. Zurich is Stained (5/5)
7. Chesley’s Little Wrists (4/5)
8. Loretta’s Scars (4.5/5)
9. Here (5/5)
10. Two States (5/5)
11. Perfume-V (5/5)
12. Fame Throwa (5/5)
13. Jackals, False Grails: The Lonesome Era (4/5)
14. Our Singer (3.5/5)

Slanted_and_Enchanted_album_coverPavement
Slanted & Enchanted; 1992
Matador Records

My Rating: 88/100

There aren’t many records that I would call “incredibly pretentious” and “brilliant” all in the same breath, but here it goes: SLANTED & ENCHANTED is brilliant in an incredibly pretentious sort of way. For the novice, Pavement’s debut will most likely sound like the schizophrenic garage-band antics of middle-class white kids who’ve been playing their instruments for, oh, three weeks. But don’t be so shallow, you! Here’s the big secret: Pavement could write some great songs! Yes, beneath all the fuzz there’s a juicy fruit waiting to be enjoyed, but SLANTED & ENCHANTED can’t be approached head-on. You have to accept the inherent contradictions (the inverted beauty of “In the Mouth a Desert”), the off-kilter rhythms (“Conduit for Sale!”), and the off-key guitars (“Zurich is Stained”) on their own terms. When you do, you’ll start to see them as a necessary part of the experience. “Here” wouldn’t be nearly so great in the hands of someone with a soulful voice – there’s an undeniable authenticity in Malkmus straining to hit those high notes. But the record’s title really says it all: these songs come from a world of paradoxic landscapes and schizoid vision, the sound of running Escher’s and Picasso’s collected works through a blender. Every piece has its place, and while some tracks are better (“Trigger Cut”, “Two States”) than others (“No Life Singed Her”, “Our Singer”), SLANTED & ENCHANTED is a jigsaw that wouldn’t quite fit together if a note was missing. Obtuse? Yes. Inscrutable? Fer sure. Esoteric? To a point. A waste of time? Not at all. Give SLANTED & ENCHANTED as many listens as it takes. You will believe.

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (4/5)

Tracks:

1. Summer Babe (Winter Version) (4.5/5)
2. Trigger Cut/Wounded-Kite at :17 (5/5)
3. No Life Singed Her (4/5)
4. In the Mouth a Desert (5/5)
5. Conduit Sale! (5/5)
6. Zurich is Stained (5/5)
7. Chesley’s Little Wrists (4/5)
8. Loretta’s Scars (4.5/5)
9. Here (5/5)
10. Two States (5/5)
11. Perfume-V (5/5)
12. Fame Throwa (5/5)
13. Jackals, False Grails: The Lonesome Era (4/5)
14. Our Singer (3.5/5)

Dawn Landes: Fireproof (2007)

Dawn Landes
Fireproof; 2007
Fun Machine Music
My Rating: 77/100
Dawn Landes’ dreamy urbanicana draws from the same Kentucky well as My Morning Jacket’s debut. FIREPROOF, her second full-length, shows the kind of restraint and melodic prowess common to artists like Feist, M. Ward, or Kings of Convenience. Still, unlike her sometimes-cohorts Hem, Landes’ outlook is infused with an off-beat humor and sleepy-eyed optimism that, on first listen, churns imperceptibly below the surface. Give the straight-laced groove of “Bodyguard” a second listen, though, and you’ll soon feel the joy. Landes shines brightest in simplicity. The simple strums and harmonies of “Tired of this Life” are playfully modest, and the afore-mentioned “Bodyguard” sounds like the rhythm was hammered out during recess twenty years ago. Unfortunately, the album sags dramatically in the middle, with novel excursions like “Picture Show” and the unbalanced and awkward “Kids in a Play.” But Landes saves the best for last, closing with a run of four brilliant tracks, including the angelic sway of “Dig Me a Hole” and the last dance of “I’m in Love with the Night.” Bonus points to Landes for her hushed and intimate take on Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down”, sneaking it in a few minutes after the star-crossed romance of “You Alone.” FIREPROOF proves that Landes is a big talent, someone with a unique and alluring vision. I expect we’ll be hearing from her for years to come.
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (4/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Consistency (4.5/5)
Tracks:
1. Bodyguard (5/5)
2. I Don’t Need No Man (4/5)
3. Tired of this Life (5/5)
4. Twilight (4.5/5)
5. Private Little Hell (4/5)
6. Picture Show (3.5/5)
7. Kids in a Play (3/5)
8. Toy Piano (4/5)
9. Dig Me a Hole (5/5)
10. I’m in Love with the Night (5/5)
11. Goodnight Lover (5/5)
12. You Alone (5/5)

Dawn_Landes___FireproofDawn Landes
Fireproof; 2007
Fun Machine Music

My Rating: 77/100

Dawn Landes’ dreamy urbanicana draws from the same Kentucky well as My Morning Jacket’s debut. FIREPROOF, her second full-length, shows the kind of restraint and melodic prowess common to artists like Feist, M. Ward, or Kings of Convenience. Still, unlike her sometimes-cohorts Hem, Landes’ outlook is infused with an off-beat humor and sleepy-eyed optimism that, on first listen, churns imperceptibly below the surface. Give the straight-laced groove of “Bodyguard” a second listen, though, and you’ll soon feel the joy. Landes shines brightest in simplicity. The simple strums and harmonies of “Tired of this Life” are playfully modest, and the afore-mentioned “Bodyguard” sounds like the rhythm was hammered out during recess twenty years ago. Unfortunately, the album sags dramatically in the middle, with novel excursions like “Picture Show” and the unbalanced and awkward “Kids in a Play.” But Landes saves the best for last, closing with a run of four brilliant tracks, including the angelic sway of “Dig Me a Hole” and the last dance of “I’m in Love with the Night.” Bonus points to Landes for her hushed and intimate take on Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down”, sneaking it in a few minutes after the star-crossed romance of “You Alone.” FIREPROOF proves that Landes is a big talent, someone with a unique and alluring vision. I expect we’ll be hearing from her for years to come.

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (4/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Consistency (4.5/5)

Tracks:

1. Bodyguard (5/5)
2. I Don’t Need No Man (4/5)
3. Tired of this Life (5/5)
4. Twilight (4.5/5)
5. Private Little Hell (4/5)
6. Picture Show (3.5/5)
7. Kids in a Play (3/5)
8. Toy Piano (4/5)
9. Dig Me a Hole (5/5)
10. I’m in Love with the Night (5/5)
11. Goodnight Lover (5/5)
12. You Alone (5/5)

Boards of Canada: In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country EP

This post has been permanently moved. You can find it here:

EP/Log: In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country by Boards of Canada