Tuesday, July 31, 2007

New Release Tuesday

From Bloodshot Records, we get The Old Town School of Folk Music Songbook, Volumes Two and Three (buy it), with a mix of OTS instructers and Chicagoland performers, including the Zincs and Kelly Hogan, performing the folk songbook. Add in a nice booklet with song histories by the school's folklorist and this becomes a no-brainer for me.

And in the shoulda-mentioned-last-week file, Saturday Looks Good to Me has a new EP on Polyvinyl, Cold Colors (buy it). From the sound of "Drink My Blood", which you can hear and download on their MySpace, they're moving to a more stripped-down, un-Spector-like sound, more akin to Flashpap'r than what SLGTM fans are used to.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Weekend Shorts

I've long felt that Kevin Kinney's 2002 album Broken Hearts and Auto Parts is one of the more overlooked singer-songwriter albums of the decade, a more authentic and heartfelt turn on the sort of thing Ryan Adams gets overpraised for. Kinney is formerly of Drivin' N' Cryin' (you maybe remember early-90s AOR staple "Fly Me Courageous" ) and an show from around that album's release has shown up on the Live Music Archive. The epic "A Good Country Mile" is probably my favorite from the disc.

In tour news, Fionn Regan's first substanial US jaunt is underway; it began last night in Boston and continues at the XPoNential festival in Camden, NJ tonight. Iron & Wine have announced some fall US and UK dates, as has Bill Callahan. Dave Bazan is also touring it up this fall across America.

Stereogum has a video of Iron & Wine covering Radiohead's "No Surprises" at the Pitchfork Festival.

The Village Voice looks at the UK antifolk scene and goes a bit overboard in comparative bluster:
[i]t should not be confused with its far more refined, stylised and effete American and Continental counterpart, anti-folk, which is basically people who are folk singers by any other name (albeit with a smidgen of punk attitude thrown in, whatever the hell that is supposed to be in 2007) singing with acoustic guitars and a semblance of melody. Sure, it’s a relation of the other genre. . . the sort of relation you only ever talk about in subdued murmurs and scandalised whispers at weddings when your mother’s back is turned.
Said the Gramophone has a few tracks from the upcoming Vic Chesnutt album North Star Deserter, due on Constellation Records September 11th. Chesnutt is backed by a host of Montreal musicians, including members of Silver Mt. Zion and Godspeed! You Black Emperor.

There's a wonderful feature at Billboard by Susan Visakowitz in which she talks to Amy Annelle and Fionn Regan about the nature and definition of folk music in the post-Dylan/Mitchell landscape. Let's just say that Susan has impeccable taste.

Aquarium Drunkard talks to Clem Snide's Eef Barzelay about Nashville.

Aaron Ross - Shapeshifter

As far as I know I've never heard a note of Aaron Ross' band Hella, and I purposely approached his first solo album, Shapeshifter, without paying Hella a MySpace visit. I was treated to a great, sprawling beast of a record, full of catchy pop songs banging around inside invigorating, epic folk jam sessions.

The first thing you'll latch on to is Ross' voice, a powerful yelp not unlike that of Destroyer and New Pornographer Dan Bejar or even Okay's Marty Anderson, a little intimidating but ultimately, through these spiritual tunes, uplifting. Many of the record's most powerful moments come when the mighty din of the great collective of local musicians present here fades and Ross' voice is left alone with only acoustic guitar to bellow out another timeless-sounding refrain, one the listener will be hard-pressed not to join in on after hearing once or twice.

The songs have a free, loose-limbed quality to them, with shades of classic rock and blues; I'm reminded of Led Zeppelin III at times. They may ramble too long for some - no track clocks in at less than five minutes, and several break seven - but to these ears Ross and company have found a happy medium between tight songwriting and improvisational expanse.

Shapeshifter is one of the first releases on the Nevada City, CA-based Grass Roots Record Co. and makes the label one to watch. Ross plays tonight in Chico, CA and on the 26th in Nevada City; see the tour page for details.

Buy Shapeshifter

MP3: Aaron Ross - Elevator Blues

Monday, July 16, 2007

New Release Tuesday: The Truly Me Club

The Truly Me Club is a one-man band out of PDX, the kind of bedroom tinkerer I'm prone to love irrationally. "When the Cops Use Their Guns" is dreamy, ambient indie-pop with undercurrents of unease, the sort of thing Her Space Holiday used to do so well before he became bizarrely self-referential. Best heard at dusk on a lazy day. His first record Pop Star on the Lam (buy it) is out on Sonic Boom Records.

MP3: The Truly Me Club - When the Cops Use Their Guns
MP3: The Truly Me Club - We All Agree, It's a Wasteland
MP3: The Truly Me Club - Cal-ifor-ni-ay

Wounded Bird completes the David Blue reissue project: 1968's These 23 Days in September (buy it), 1970's Me, S. David Cohen (buy it), and 1975's Com'n Back for More (buy it).

Friday, July 13, 2007

Megan Hamilton - How We Think About Light

I haven't been posting as much lately, but rest assured that what I do post about is something I really like.

Toronto singer-songwriter Megan Hamilton has a new EP out, How We Think About Light, her second release following debut full-length Feudal Ladies Club. It's a slow builder, intriguing at first listen and fully addicting after the third or fourth. I've been playing it on repeat for a few days running.

Her distinctive voice has great twists, yelps and mewls, always genuine and unaffected; on expressionistic opener "Are the Birds Caught in the Trees?" she sings "On his pant leg the cat leaves a trail of her fur/hear the room buzz with purrs and the lingering words," the last word of each line differently punctuated to great effect. The strongest song here might be "Saint Francis", with its sing-along chorus and big, warm burbles of country guitar.

The tunes here blend lonesome country/folk with dream pop; Mojave 3 and Edith Frost fans will likely swoon. Producer Mark Vogelsang deserves credit for building the rich sonic textures that never seem showy or overdone, stamping each song with a certain atmosphere. His songwriting contribution, closer "Trees Leave Shadows in the Park", positively aches. As good as the EP is, I can't help but think Hamilton has better yet to come, and look forward to hearing more soon.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

New Release Tuesday

60s Greenwich Village scenesters Bunky & Jake - not, in fact, Mighty Wind extras - see reissue of their 1967 eponymous debut on UK label Fallout (buy it). The only music I've heard from them are the two songs streaming on the B&J MySpace, including the downloadable almost-classic oldie "I Was a Champion". Not quite Fred Neil nor Buffy Saint Marie, the duo have a retro-groovy sound all their own.

Fallout is also reissuing Val Stoecklein's 1968 solo album Grey Life (buy it), which is paid tribute in a 2004 Baltimore City Paper piece: "It’s the kind of record you might buy for 50 cents because the cover—a guy dressed entirely in black, sitting in the corner of what appears to be a padded room, playing his guitar—has an elegant simplicity that suggests something worth hearing. Turns out it contains something even more unlikely: 11 achingly sad acoustic songs accompanied by immaculate, over-the-top orchestral arrangements, like an extremely depressed Neil Diamond or Burt Bacharach arranging Smog." That description aside, All Music says it's all-out terrible; I haven't heard it, but will seek it out to add to the saddoe collection nonetheless.

Rounding out the reissue parade is M. Ward's debut Duet for Guitars #2 on Merge (buy it), which features three new tracks and the iff favorite "He Asked Me to Be a Snake and Live Underground"; and Fionn Regan's teriffic debut album The End of History (buy it), now out domestically and affordably on Lost Highway.

Also out is the pre-album teaser single from Iron & Wine, "Boy with the Coin" (buy it).

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Morning Shorts

No new releases grab me this week, so on with the shorts...

A while back I tried to predict the soundtrack to Noah Baumbach's sure-to-be-brilliant new film, Margot at the Wedding. So far my picks haven't panned out, but the trailer reveals two songs, a track by Blondie that maybe a bigger Blondie fan than I can identify; and Phantom Planet's cover of CSNY's "Our House", which, playing over Black-Kidman-Jason Leigh family drama, is surprisingly effective in its 60s folk-rock melancholy.

Bradley's Almanac brings you the Sebadoh reunion gig from Boston.

David Bazan's gone and done a Daytrotter session. In addition to "Bands with Managers" and "Cold Beer and Cigarettes", Bazan treats us to two new songs, "Harmless Sparks" and "Shit Talker".

I'm very much looking forward to Boat's second album, Let's Drag Our Feet. Somehow, it's already available to order at Magic Marker's site. They're also kindly providing a taste.

MP3: Boat - I'm a Donkey For Your Love