Quick Review (LP): Smart Flesh by The Low Anthem

The Low Anthem
Smart Flesh
Nonesuch; 2011

My Rating: C (51/100)

Best Tracks: "Ghost Woman Blues", "Love & Altar", "Golden Cattle"

Brace for sleep…

– I love this band’s sound. It’s like the perfect combination of Low’s dark trance-rock and Hem’s chamber americana.
– "Boeing 737" is mighty, but its trajectory is all ahead. I guess I would have preferred they throttle back on it at some point.
– Dig the opener. The clarinet was tragically under-used for 50 years of rock and roll.
– In general, they can’t go wrong with slow songs, mandolin, sustained piano, and clarinet, but even a few of those are a little too sleepy.
– Religious themes going on with some of the song titles. I suspect this album is heavy on the lyrical content, but it’s darn hard to access.
– I dig "Wire" in and of itself, but I question it’s setting in the middle of the record, after "Matter of Time" and before "Burn." The record really starts to drag in the middle.
Ian Cohen of Pitchfork does a great job of summing up what’s wrong with this record. BTW, it pains me to use the word "wrong," because I really want to like this record.
– Overall, it lacks in the songwriting department, and certainly isn’t brilliant like OMGCD. Check out the tracks I mention. The rest can be left behind.

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consistency (3/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Songs (3/5)

Best Breezes: 2010/05/10 – 2010/05/16

Best Breezes brings you the most notable threads of the past week in great music…

Jason Noble Benefits Spell Reunions from Cerebellum, others…

This weekend saw several benefit shows in my hometown of Louisville, KY for Jason Noble of Rachel’s, Shipping News, and Rodan fame.  Not too far back, Jason was diagnosed with cancer, and the outpouring of support over the last few months serves as a better tribute to him than I can possibly do here.

The big name to reunite was of course Endpoint, who played together for the first time since 1994. Sunspring joined them on Friday night, also for the first time since 1994. The biggest deal for me though was Cerebellum, who played together for the first time since 1989. Cerebellum morphed into Crain, who were one of the greatest bands to come out of Louisville and recorded the classic album Speed.

Cerebellum were great in their own right, charged through with youthfulness and optimism. Their sole release, a self-titled cassette on Slamdek Records, has gotten the re-release treatment on Noise Pollution, with the added bonus of five newly recorded “oldies.” To give you some idea of how awesome this is, it is sort of like Minor Threat getting back together and recording some early, proto-Fugazi tracks.

Check out Cerebellum playing “Calm” here…

New Arcade Fire on the way…

All the music websites were abuzz with the possiblity of a new record from Arcade Fire. Nothing particularly concrete yet, but the band’s website definitely alludes to something big coming our way soon

Free Josh Ritter concert…

The Frontloader has a complete audio recording of Josh Ritter’s 5/8/2010 performance at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. Band sounds great, Josh sounds great, recording sounds great. Why don’t you have this yet?

Lala shutdown

Major bummerooski as Lala.com announces that it is closing its door for good. This was by far the most useful website to come along in, well, ever…I hope something comes along to take its place soon.

Wax Fang rising

Wax Fang are a sort of prog-punk from Louisville, featuring drummer Kevin Ratterman, formerly of Elliott. It sounds like they are making a huge buzz on the international scene right now, and they have just re-released their only full-length LP, La La Land, on Absolutely Kosher Records. Check them out here:

New Low Anthem track...

Brought to us by HearYa…live video of a new track from The Low Anthem, “I’ll Take Out Your Ashes.”

Is it just me, or is 2010 turning out to be the best year for music in recent memory?

Tracks of the Decade (so far)

1563_Pieter_Bruegel_the_elder_The_Tower_of_Babel-wl400There’s still more to come, but here’s a list of the Sweet Georgia Breezes’ Tracks of the Decade so far (in no particular order). What do you think of the list? What are your top 5 or 10 tracks of the decade?

Counting Crows – Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby
Wilco – I am trying to break your heart
The New Pornographers  – Myriad Harbour
M. Ward – Poison Cup
Kathleen Edwards – In State
Vampire Weekend – M79
Johnny Cash – The Man Comes Around
Built to Spill – The Weather
Neko Case – Star Witness
Belle and Sebastian – Funny Little Frog
Interpol – NYC
Wilco – Impossible Germany
Coldplay – Lost!
Ryan Adams – To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)
Fugazi – Cashout
Flaming Lips – Fight Test
Nathan – The Wind
Radiohead – Everything In Its Right Place
Rachel’s – Water from the Same Source
Fleet Foxes – White Winter Hymnal
Bruce Springsteen – My City of Ruins
The Low Anthem – Charlie Darwin

Tracks of the Decade: “Charlie Darwin” by The Low Anthem

The Low Anthem LOFI4“Charlie Darwin”
by The Low Anthem

Fittingly, the 2000’s were good for the protest song. You had questionable wars, infuriating leadership, racial discord, and political extremism of all kinds. Artists from Jay Farrar to Bruce Springsteen to Radiohead all found ways to musically voice their opinions on this or that issue, but it was Rhode Island’s The Low Anthem that consolidated all of the angst and restlessness into the decade’s definitive hymn of dissent. Setting up history’s most controversial naturalist as a prophet in the wilderness, the lyric and music blend seamlessly, the song’s gentle sway eliciting the swell of the sea. For The Low Anthem, we are adrift in a broken vessel with no sight or hope of land. Why? We’ve failed to heed the words of the prophet, and so “the lords of war just profit from decay.” It’s the resplendent bridge, though, that scores the chills. When the band sings “Oh my god,” the three-part falsetto harmonies ring with a stark tranquility. It’s a hard truth, that something so classically beautiful can be so full of despair, but the band proceeds to proclaim the jeremiad. Still, with music like this closing the decade, I believe there’s ample reason for hope. “Toward the bright horizon set the way.”