Sunday, September 10, 2006

Super XX Man - X

One of the best things in the world is 1) hearing a great album by an artist you didn't know of and 2) realizing they have a huge back catalog. That's the case for iff and Super XX Man's new album, X, an album title alluding their nine previous albums. This one features rerecordings of songs from the catalog, and is released by one of our very favorite labels, Portland's Hush.

Scott Garred, who works as a music therapist in a maximum-security prison, has a gift for writing disarmingly direct, melodically assured, stripped-down folk songs that are confused and comforting in equal measure. The subdued arrangements fit the songs well, especially the careful background vocals by Alison Wesley.

The lyrics are mature without being boring, and he often takes simple phrases and turns them into low-key anthems, as with my favorite song on this disc, "Garage Apartment". "I want another chance to be with you", he sings to open the song, and soon he's apartment hunting, repeating to himself in the same melody a phone number for a rental, "458-4492, 458-4492, a garage apartment", so he'll remember it. With only a skeleton of a story, he paints a vivid picture, and the combination of specific details and ambiguous backstory makes it infinitely relatable.

Vocally, Garred reminds us most of the Weakerthans' John Samson in his more acoustic moments; shades of Clem Snide and the Mountain Goats also spring to mind. See below for two downloads: "Garage Apartment" and another killer track from X, "Up Up Up".

MP3: Super XX Man - Garage Apartment
MP3: Super XX Man - Up Up Up

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