Quick Review (LP): Nashville Skyline by Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan
Nashville Skyline
Columbia; 1969

My Rating: A- (83/100)

Best Tracks: "To Be Alone With You", "Girl from the North Country", "Lay Lady Lay", "Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You", "Country Pie"

Bobby goes south in search of a warm bed.

NOTES
– The updated version of "Girl from the North Country" is a great moment for so many reasons. Of course, it’s a lovely duet with the Man in Black himself, which is enough to make it a classic alone. At the same time though, it’s a sort of farewell to the iconic Dylan, the closing credits for the rebel without a cause, the reprise of the film’s harrowing overture. Of course, there would be sequels to Dylan’s first act, but nothing was ever as great as that first act as a whole.
– His voice does sound awful nice here compared to the first eight albums. Almost sounds like a different person.
– "Rest" is a big theme here. Even the opening track, which in its original setting was more about leaving the girl behind, sounds dream like, as if he’s coming home to her.
– This one’s not so different from John Wesley Harding, but it is certainly more oriented towards the popular country music of the time than the cross-eyed folk found on the former.
– I kinda wonder if there was some sort of folk-celebrity interplay going on between Dylan and Simon at this time, since "Lay Lady Lay" and "The Boxer" (both big singles in 1969) have such similar choruses lyrically. Of course, Dylan "covered" "The Boxer" on his next release…
– This is a wonderful warm record. Personally, I’m a fan of the domesticated Dylan, and though I do think New Morning is better, this one is a strong record nonetheless.

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

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Quick Review (LP): So Runs The World Away by Josh Ritter

so runs the world away ritter Josh Ritter
So Runs The World Away
Pytheas; 2010

My Rating: B+

Best Tracks: “Change of Time”, “Southern Pacific”, “Lark”, “Long Shadows”, “Orbital”

The world may be running away, but Josh Ritter’s 6th LP finds him slowing things down. More meditative than Ritter’s past efforts, this record is no less dense with lyrical majesty and lush with orchestration. It’s not an “easy” album by any means, especially for those who have come to love Ritter especially for the big-hearted Americana of Hello Starling and The Animal Years. Nevertheless, it’s an album that asks you to surrender, with the payoff to follow. The poppiest songs (“Lark” and “Lantern”) are buried in the album’s mid-section, sandwiched between two of the record’s most obtuse tracks (“Folk Bloodbath” and “The Remnant”), and the rest of the record is more dream-like and/or cinematic than anything Ritter has come up with before. What we have here is a musician once heralded as a latter-day Dylan achieving a heartland synthesis of Simon and Springsteen. That’s an interesting development. So Runs the World Away may not grab you with the immediacy of some of Ritter’s past work, but with a little bit of patience you’ll see some real genius begin to unfold.

Paste review
Metacritic reviews

Quick Review (LP): High Violet by The National

high-violet The National
High Violet
4AD; 2010

My Rating: A

Best Tracks: “Terrible Love”, “Sorrow”, “Bloodbuzz Ghost”, “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks”

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” a wise man once said. And who is The National to argue with that? Coming off of Boxer, which made them one of indie’s undisputed heavyweights, the band apparently tried to craft something a bit more upbeat. They failed, and the result is this haunting and opaque beauty of a record. At first, it comes off like “Boxer, part 2”, but after a few listens you’ll start to pick up on singer Matt Berninger really stretching himself and the rest of the band changing things up ever so slightly. For all of the cold tones of their sound, The National have at root an Americana soul that imbues their music with a warmth and richness that most upstarts of the NYC scene can’t quite attain. For what it’s worth, I think The National have officially become what Interpol might have been with a little heat to balance out their sound: America’s own chroniclers of urban lonesome and paranoia.

The National’s website
Daytrotter downloads
”Terrible Love” video
Pitchfork review
Paste review
Metacritic reviews

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)