If indie rock was baseball, Karl Blau would be the best journeyman utility player around - the Jamey Carroll of the underground. Blau hustles, turning out several albums a year to subscribers of Kelp Lunacy, his audio zine. With infectious zeal, he incorporates increasingly disparate influences into his music, the way Carroll might do time at every infield position, and act as your emergency third catcher, with a smile. He's not flashy, and will never be a superstar, but once in a while he'll get the big hit.
On Blau's new album, Nature's Got Away, that hit for me is "Two Becomes One", a slow-building masterpiece of tension and release. Channeling Lambchop's Kurt Wagner, Blau lulls you with clipped, wry asides, carefully carries you away on narcotic guitar lines to make Dean Wareham proud, and when he closes things with the line "all the hardships fade away", you're not sure whether to feel comforted or bereft. Without question, one of the best songs I've heard this year.
Elsewhere, on "Ghostly Appearance", Blau turns out bent garage psych straight out of a bizarro-world Nuggets. "Mockingbird Diet", which K is making available for download, is a good example of why Blau has been getting Bill Callahan comparisons. Beyond the similar dry baritone, he manages to mash up the prickly lofi tension of Julius Caesar-era arrangements with the more relaxed, organic sentiments of Callahan's last two records.
Stream the whole wonderful album here. It's available September 23rd on K.
MP3: Karl Blau - Mockingbird Diet