December 31, 2006

Ella Fitzgerald – What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?

Upon its composition, I wonder what type of artists Frank Loesser imagined would cover “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” Harry Connick, Jr.? Sure. Barry Manilow? Maybe. Clay Aiken? Probably not.

I think Ella would have surpassed all expectations. This song wasn’t meant for Diana Krall’s crystal-confident pipes. It’s saturated with longing, with the agony of indecision (that rules your cover out, too, Bette Midler). And Ella—oh, Ella—she knows what that means. Her voice wavers often, dangling in the still air of midnight like an unmet expectation. More than anything, this song sounds sincere drifting from her glossy lips. Diana knows what you’re doing New Year’s Eve, but Ella sounds genuinely hopeful, genuinely uncertain. The trumpets and saxophones long to bring her drinks not because she’s the best, but because, when she sings, she knows the most important part of the song is the question mark in its title.

Perhaps I’m drawn to songs destined for numerous covers because it implies some sort of inherent excellence. Twenty versions of Evan and Jaron’s “Crazy for This Girl?” No. Twenty versions of Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” including a phenomenal version (head tilt and all) by generally-indie-accepted-pop-bluegrass-juggernauts Nickel Creek? You’re damn right.

And now it’s that time of year again. Your favorite music e-zines have agreed it’s the point at which to take holiday, leaving your ears otherwise starved for new idols. How will you survive? If Nick Hornby has anything to say about it (and, in fact, he has an entire dreary book’s worth of speculation), New Year’s Eve is a time for reflection, regret, and numerous other forms of angst. However, it is also a time of creation. Our most beloved artists are just as human as the lot of us, and while we’re pissed and busy dreaming up resolutions (e.g. “I WILL learn the accordion this year, I WILL.), some of next year’s best music is gestating in these musicians’ figurative wombs.

I imagine I’ll be out and about at some hipster shindig, decked in appropriate hipster attire, listening to some brilliant Scottish album not slated for release until 2009. Or I’ll be at home listening to great music, having a laugh, a bottle of wine, and teaching myself the accordion…

Happy New Years.

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Rahawa Haile | 7:00 pm | Comments (5)

December 22, 2006

Seasonal music is generally a love-hate affair. Nothing brings out the schmaltz, the kitsch, and the garish quite like Christmas. Your tolerance for these factors will determine just how much of the stuff you’ll be able to stand. Unfortunately it’s also unavoidable. If you hate Christmas music, then having it blasted at you over mall sound-systems for two months straight will only confirm your antipathy.

In fact, your feelings about Christmas music are pretty closely related to how you feel about the holiday itself. The crass commercialism and cheap sentimentality is present in just about every aspect of the season: the movies, the advertising, the decorations, the presents—why not the music as well?

All these things are the antithesis of what “independent” music is supposed to be about: DIY amateurism, fearless exploration, niche tastes over mainstream accessibility. Admittedly, indie rock often fails to live up to these standards, but it usually manages to keep up appearances.

So the recent indie love for Christmas singles, Eps, and compilations is a little bit baffling. They do know that it’s a bit gimmicky, right? Well, tongue firmly planted in cheek or not, some left-of-center artists have produced Christmas songs that are up there with their best work.

Danish noise-pop band The Raveonettes’ original track “The Christmas Song” is unconventional to say the least. While Christmas standards have usually gone for jaunty and jolly (or morose and maudlin at the other extreme), the Raveonettes pitch for their usual back-alley sexiness and succeed. It’s disorienting to hear Sune Rose Wagner sneer “Santa’s coming to town” as if it’s the filthiest pick-up line he knows. You almost believe it is.

Classic rockers My Morning Jacket released an entire EP of Christmas songs a few years back, based around their song “Xmas Curtain.” It’s a laid-back country tune, which reminds the listener of the best Christmas weepers of past ages. The lyrics are cryptic to say the least, with their tales of lawbreakers and girls living inside wombs, but Jim James’ unique, reverby vocals lend them a gravity that is rare in the disposable world of Christmas music.

If there’s any artist who loves Christmas, it’s Sufjan Stevens. The man has recently compiled his five Christmas mini-albums into a stylish box set for us all to enjoy. Stevens’ straight-faced loopiness makes him the ideal Christmas songwriter and interpreter. In his alternative indie universe, irony is dead and enthusiasm is not a dirty word. In fact, the track listings for each CD never contain fewer than two exclamation marks (!) “Come On! Let’s Boogey To The Elf Dance!” is one of the best of these excitable tracks and one which introduces the world to a new Christmas instrument. “Santa Claus is coming / Hear the banjos strumming.” Let’s boogey indeed.

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David Pullar | 12:00 am | Comments (0)

December 21, 2006

I’ve often pondered why great bands, bands who redefine what we expect from contemporary music seem preternaturally disposed toward implosion. For as much as we’d like to blame it all on drugs, women, sex, and sex with women on drugs, sometimes a band’s greatness stems not from the sum of its parts, but from its division. The Doors created the template, but when the Verve released their debut on Hut in 1993 they weren’t slow in donning the Emperor’s new clothes with fashionable abandon.

Butterfly” from A Storm in Heaven is six-and-a-half minutes of “This is the End” blues-mongering that’s not so much a song as it is a journey, maaan. Beginning with Nick McCabe’s overdriven riff-meistering and joined by hard-panned double acoustics, the song—sorry, the journey—delivers Richard Ashcroft’s shamanic assertions over a bed of percussive texturing, building gradually to a premature climax. Which is the perfect excuse to start all over again, bringing in the horns to serpentine effect just as the fire-walking starts. It bears the hallmarks of why they were doomed to failure (too much creative “genius,” too little give-a-fuck) and though they managed another two albums, by that time everyone wanted some Oxford grads getting their ‘Floyd on.

Peteris Vasks work and life suffered similar attrition. Apparently, living under a totalitarian regime in Latvia will do that. But like any screenplay how-to will tell you—you gotta write what you know. Which is what Vasks’ did, composing pacifistic laments whose dissent lay in the notes rather than the streets.

“String Symphony – Voices (Balsis)” was assembled during the height of the eastern Bloc’s attempts for emancipation. Its three-part structure unfolds with “Voices of Silence,” moving onto “Voices of Life,” and culminating in “Voices of Conscience,” the final movement ushering in the threat of ecological disaster, political and military upheaval, and dystopian extinction, shifting finally to a pleadingly optimistic tone that nevertheless carries the weight of what preceded it: fragile hope still covered in the detritus of oppression.

But if that’s a little too Amnesty for you, let me suggest a foray into the secret life of the Veronicas. Their debut album is fully-paid-for pop at its most calculated, sure, but when it’s this well done (and they look that cute) then far be it from me to pass judgment. Other than to say that it’s fucking brilliant in a way that reminds you of the finale of every teen movie you’ve ever seen, delivered flawlessly by the two girls who were way too hot for the football team and got together instead.

Being that they’re real-life twins, though makes that a bit ew, but “Leave Me Alone” is so pitch-perfect that you’ll just enjoy the sheer bitter-sweetness of what’s on offer without feeling guilty. Sounding a lot like Agnetha and Frida breaking it off on “Knowing Me Knowing You,” Jess and Lisa manage to hold their own against Josh Alexander and Billy Steinberg’s über-anthem production prowess, delivering lines like “I’m so ova-writ” with just the right amount of jilted pathos and teenage resilience, avoiding the overwrought glycemia of… nearly everyone else. Why the Veronicas are languishing in the charts while Avril’s working with Richard Linklater is a goddamn mystery to me.

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Brendon Davies-Patrick | 12:00 am | Comments (2)

December 20, 2006

Golden Smog – Gone

I won’t do it. I won’t use the word “supergroup.” I won’t select a genre in which to stow Golden Smog away. I won’t reflect upon the viscous history of the Jayhawks or compare Uncle Tupelo to Jeff Tweedy’s acoustically-oriented solo efforts.

This is not a day for dallying. I’m shuffling down streets littered with leaves, windswept parking tickets, and the dust of dead things. Fall finally hit in December. What can I say other than we Floridians are a smidge slow (ask anyone who’s taken a gander at our public school system)?

It’s half past seven in this college town. The streets are barren. The semester’s gone awry. The lawns are awash, saturated with spilled kind intentions. The puddles are plenty. The sprinklers are broken. It’s time for finals and spigots spurt Adderall. There’s dew on green blades peppering the sidewalk and last night’s coffee on my caked lips. Guilt nips at my calloused fingertips. I cut my forehead on pale branches. All the trees have clapped their hands, and I listen to this song as singer Gary Louris’s question burns my mind: are you happy where you are?

My breath catches in my throat. I close my eyes and step forward before a harmonica nearly runs me over. I jump at its shriek of worn brake pads. Its gossamer tone is the grinding of gears. My toes dangle over the edge of the sidewalk. I pant. Physically I’m standing upright, but somewhere I fell; I drifted. One morning I looked in the mirror, mussed my hair, and saw someone new.

From the corner of my eye there’s a drizzle. My smudged glasses glimpse grey skies and burgundy. I wax poetic, wane prophetic, and scold my own pretension. Again the siren, again the question: are you happy where you are?

Yes. No. Not here. Could be. If only and other simple answers.

Today is not another fine day. I’m16 and crying over a lost love to The Counting Crows’ “A Long December.” Remember them? Hah. Yeah, I know what you mean. I’ve only a few mp3s, though. Was never really a fan either…

I’m trying to focus. I’m trying to bring you a song, some words, and I’m failing abysmally, but I hope, at least, that you’re happy where you are.

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Rahawa Haile | 12:00 am | Comments (2)

December 19, 2006

It’s fair to say Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Double Life of Veronique, which recently received the glorious Criterion Collection treatment, walks tenuously down a thin, squiggly line separating celestial poignancy from frustrating ridiculousness. This, of course, is not considering the non-sequitur piss-of-an-appearance from a midget lawyer. This, rather, is considering the plot, which involves two metaphysically, superficially, and inextricably linked women, Weronika and Veronique, both played by Iréne Jacob. Here’s the deal. Weronika sings in a choir, Veronique plays the piano. Weronika is ambitious, Veronique demure. Weronika cannot connect with the familiar. Veronique cannot connect with the unfamiliar. And so on.

At first glance, perhaps first watch, we formulate assumptions about this film, unconfidently. It could be an exhibition of the metaphysically intertwined nature of human existence, though it never seems comfortable with the complexity of this assessment. Or it could be a simple story about the disparity in decisions that two doppelgangers make, though it seems too pensive to attract such facileness.

Early in the film, the two women cross paths and immediately thereafter, set off on two different paths, one to death, the other to life. However, the actual cinematic handoff occurs in one of the most brilliantly conceived, brilliantly shot, and brilliantly composed scenes of ‘90s cinema. The scene takes place during an orchestra and choir performance, with Weronika, a soprano, as the lead soloist. The piece played is “Concerto in E-Minor,” which was composed by Zbigniew Preisner, with the lyrics of Dante sung in Old Italian. This means, at least to me, close to nothing. (Kieslowski stated that the lyrics have no bearing on the story and that they were simply constructs for Preisner to arrange the piece around.)

Fade in, slowly, lugubriously. This is a lament. This is a human facing down the great stygian inevitability, despite the evident will to live, hanging weakly on her face. This is a woman singing her own requiem. Listen. A recorder begins a short, cautious soliloquy, sounding like a eulogistic siren, making a few smooth curlicue sounds before an inauspicious breeze begins to bristle in the background. There is another, slightly deeper-voiced mezzo-soprano, with less range, who sings to the audience, ostensibly an introduction to the soon-to-be deceased. Preisner calls on the plangent peal of a bell to segue into Weronika’s powerful and sad solo.

Her voice rises through her thin frame. The orchestra begins to play and the other woman joins in, smiling demonically at Weronika. This is a battle and I know the outcome, the woman seems to say. Together, their duet of sorts is strained and tonally competitive. The other woman keeps up with Weronika while still smiling, with a baiting inflection. The woman quits and the conductor’s dour look segues into Weronika’s smooth humming, an even-tempered lilt, which lingers mellifluously and then jumps into a more frantic, more strained, high-pitched cadence. The choir kicks in, with Weronika’s voice surmounting their attack, crescendoing and sustaining, to the conductor’s wrinkled eyebrows’ surprise. Weronika clutches her chest and stops.

An enfilade of violins blasts through the even-tempered hum of the choir. The conductor, as if surprised this has lasted as long as it has, signals abstractly to Weronika, who sings a plaintive melody, textured like a final statement of sorts. Impetuously, Weronika is lured into higher and higher depths by the choir. However, she seems to be winning, her voice living, surmounting death’s minion’s onslaught. The conductor is in awe.

But she cannot keep up. The choir rockets higher like the sirens of hell and the orchestra rises like the gales of Cocyton, and it’s all too obvious that this is the end. But for a moment, victory takes the sound of the dying woman’s voice and for a moment, time freezes at this incredible apex of sound, as a slow tear hangs in the corner of Weronika’s eye. And then she drops. There’s a thud and then there’s silence. The prosaic pluck of a harp occupies the empty space.

The film version of “Concerto in E-Minor” is three-and-a-half-minutes long and the soundtrack version runs for five minutes. Missed in the film, is small but substantial-to-the-music’s-story conclusion to the piece. Sans visuals, the soundtrack version features one soloist soprano throughout, though it’s important to note that this voice restrains itself in this final part, collaborating with rather than competing against the choir and the orchestra. In this, we find something integral to the film’s story. The sounds are less ominous. Together, they evince a certain sadness about their participation in the previous events. Together, they finish univocally.

Preisner arranges the piece like a battle scene. There are mini victories and mini defeats, and an ultimate outcome. The simplicity of his composition calls attention to the story taking place in the music. Coupled with the visuals, it feels like Weronika’s conception of her own death. Preisner allows her cry to be heard but also makes sure she’s overwhelmed and ultimately surmounted. It’s an altogether quick and viscerally tense piece that follows a simple long-rise-short-fall pattern, evoking a crushing sense of futility without being too overt. And there seems to be meaning. Or at least purpose. Nonetheless, if a great cinematic sequence and a great score could make me feel this way, I’m not sure I need a meaning or purpose.

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Kevin Biggers | 12:00 am | Comments (2)

December 18, 2006

This song has no right to be so enduring. Too many aspects of “Groove Is in the Heart” are plainly absurd—the slide whistle, the vocal tics and rap breakdown, the cheesy samples—for it to have been anything more than a lower entry on Novelty Song Lists or a sheepishly released B-side. “We’re going to dance / We’re going to dance / We’re going to dance / And have some fun” intones the intro. This sounds far too much like organized fun—which is anything but fun, let alone cool. The mix, all random sounds bouncing around, is too busy—it could only have been compiled by an obsessive nerd. Minimalism is cool; clutter ain’t.

Nevertheless, seventeen years after its release, Deee-Lite’s song remains an infectious dancefloor filler. Kids nowadays may not know the song by name, and are even unlikelier to know anything about its progenitors, but the slinky bass line and soberly insistent tambourine are guaranteed to tickle their ears and get their hips twitching. Lady Miss Kier’s dynamic vocal—all sass in the verse and sonorous in the chorus—will inspire impassioned copycats. The song’s exhausted shutdown will lead to appreciative cheering and perhaps even pleas for a repeat spin.

Its appeal? It’s a dance song for the dorky masses. Groove may be in the heart, but cool ain’t nearly as ubiquitous. Being a music fan is often an exercise in social maneuvering. “Groove Is in the Heart” flipped a nerdish finger to this hegemony. You didn’t need to move in the right circles to enjoy this song, you just needed to be in the dance circle. I’ve seen the song work its magic: my college dormitory adopted it as its party anthem even developing a goofy dance routine (incorporating such choreographic classics as the pot stirring and the sprinkler). From the cool clique to the freaks, the song united the community.

In the years since “Groove Is in the Heart,” grunge crashed through and sold its soul, dance music went overground, Girl Power fizzed, hip-hop hit the clubs, Britney jailbait nymphettes completed a 7-10 split in musical demographics, and guitars returned to turn the clock back thirty years. However, no matter how much the songs changed, the audiences stayed the same. Amidst this musical upheaval, jocks stayed jocks and dorks were dorks. You can’t fight society. However, “Groove Is in the Heart” cleared a path to the dancefloor for all social strata. With its joyful spirit, it may very well be the greatest single of all time.

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Michael Tran | 12:00 am | Comments (1)

December 15, 2006

Religion is a tricky thing to address in a public forum.

When it comes to the to the inner workings of one’s own spirituality—against so many different perspectives and points of view—even the most sincerely supported thoughts are bound to rub somebody the wrong way.

This is certainly not to say that a fear of criticism has ever deterred us from openly expressing and embracing our own otherworldly interpretations.

Take for example, the work of indie folk group Page France and the unique focus found on their 2005 album Hello, Dear Wind. For all intents and purposes this campfire-crafted work by singer/songwriter Michael Nau and his Baltimore based band implements what can only be described as a dominant Christian voice throughout its 14 tracks. Evoking images of angels, burning bushes, and trumpet calls they march merrily in their musical stride.

But just as they may travel with the seemingly uncool baggage of divine themes and symbolism, you don’t have to be a religious zealot to feel as though there is something unusually accessible about the way the group approaches the idea of faith in its songs. Like a child speaking without any preconceived notion of what or who God is and what he/she/it is supposed to mean Nau’s lyrics come across like someone who’s oddly unattached, but with a voice that’s surprisingly genuine.

This is particularly evident with the opener “Chariot,” in which Nau ultimately describes the beginning of the apocalyptic end. Introduced with the buzzing down-strumming of an acoustic guitar and a clicking snare drum, the song progresses without a single moment of fear or doubt, and steadily builds to something fit for a parade, eventually even adding a xylophone and tambourine to the lo-fi production. “He’s one of us,” Nau says at one point of the embarrassed “circus king” come to take us away, as if to point out that for all our lesson-learning sermons and biblical close readings, the Almighty may find all the attention a little beside the point.

In “Jesus” Page France furthers this humanizing portrait by describing the beloved son of God as a water-into-wine-turning zombie, who literally has to climb out of the ground to join the celebration. With an infectious refrain and a number of echoing “la-la-la’s” thrown into the mix, by the time Nau says “I will sing a song to you / And you will stomp your feet for me” for the second time, you can’t help but feel just a little obliged.

In a day and age where our beliefs seem to naturally separate us, perhaps the most endearing aspect of these songs (as well as many others on Hello, Dear Wind) is the fact that any one of their religious references/metaphors can be exchanged for another. It could very well be just about God or Jesus. But it could also be Allah. It could be Vishnu. Buddha. Darwin. Even the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

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Mike Hilleary | 12:00 am | Comments (3)

December 14, 2006

Between the incest, teen pregnancies, necrophilia, stolen prosthetics etc. it’s easy to see why William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Truman Capote, and all the other modern, and unabashedly Southern writers are considered, from a suburban vantage point, to be batshit. (Faulkner’s word-a-day vocabulary doesn’t help either, nor does the fact that most of these literary heavyweights were explicitly strange and bewildering who prided themselves on baffling outsiders—especially Northerners). Bizarre plot and style elements aside, there are bagfuls of ticking neuroses in their texts: barely-there parents, the burdens of tradition, being poor and white, being poor and black, all punctuated with a very real sense of cultural inferiority—having to play the perpetual slack-jawed pervert to the Northern man-of-sophistication.

Indicted on all sides—strawmanned by East coast and West coast alike, accusations ranging from lazy couplets, obsequious 808 production, and, well, “Laffy Taffy”—the Third Coast has inherited the South’s artistic complexes. Between moments of clear-eyed insanity and graphic depictions of violence, Southern emcees rarely mince words, opting for distinct imagery that floats off the tongue and onto a lush beat. Tossing out the New York standard of stilted rhymes and clean production, the cream of the Southern crop has relentlessly carved out their own distinctive niche, twisting the California G-Funk sound into a soulfully grimy, bleak aesthetic, all of which results in some of the most charged, pathos-ridden music in the genre.

Now popularly known as That-Thing-Cee-Lo-Was-in-Before-Gnarls-Barkley, The Goodie Mob debuted in 1995 with the front-to-back classic Soul Food. Between the gritty beats and street smart rhymes, members Cee-Lo, Khujo, T-Mo, and Big Gipp gave a decidedly conscious spin to the traditionally hard Dirty South sound. “Cell Therapy,” produced by Atlanta’s premiere Organized Noize, is an eerily sparse track with a creeping bassline, staccato piano loop, sprinkled with Louis Armstrong’s sing-song growls. Trading in conspiracy theory and hustling rhymes, the Mob tag teams the track between Khujo’s syncopated lines and Cee-Lo’s buttery delivery, capping each with the ghetto cabin fever chorus, “Who’s that peeking in my window / POW! / Nobody now.”

“You know how Jay-Z is to New York? UGK was Jay-Z to us” — David Banner

UGK’s Pimp C and Bun B are probably your favorite Southern rapper’s favorite southern rappers, evidenced in the last few years by Bun B’s relentless work on the guest spot circuit and the ubiquitous “Free Pimp C” campaign (Pimp C was recently released from a four-year stint in prison for a parole violation). Following two mediocre releases on Jive in the early ‘90s, UGK dropped 1996’s Ridin’ Dirty, a touchstone for southern hip-hop and a perennial favorite among critics and stans alike. Highlight “One Day” completely forgoes the usual opening fanfare in favor of a slow burner that cops its crooning lament from The Isley Brothers’ “Ain’t I Been Good to You.” Multi-instrumentalist and producer Pimp C infuses the track with equal parts trunk thump and Memphis soul, finding time to split lines with Bun B’s slippery cadence and guest 3-2’s polished drawl. While the rhymes put slangin’ front and center, UGK colors around the edges, showing the trapper in a more dynamic light: as brother, friend, and target. Despite the pair’s magnum egos, the stories of hard-won gains, abandonment, and murdered friends are plentiful, delivered with thousand-yard stares.

The insanely prolific Trae recently received some serious attention for his summer release Restless. The martial tone of the album is set early with “Real Talk,” the auditory equivalent of amphetamines, charged with stinging wall-of-sound guitars, 8-bit snap, and horrorshow synths—the end result being some of the most vicious Nintendo boss music never made. Trae’s merciless flow stays buoyant throughout, proving he’s tremendously versatile (he spares the machine-gun speed for the rest of the album) and reflecting a scared shitless sink-or-swim mentality, making sure to never stop in one place for too long. Nonetheless “Real Talk” is a certified banger, seamlessly blending a kid’s cocksure mentality and the trailing fear of failure.

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Daniel Denorch | 12:00 am | Comments (4)

December 13, 2006

I sometimes think that my recent obsession with super heavy rock is something like a mid-life musical crisis. I’ve always had the fear that as I got older, my tastes would skew more towards light jazz and folk and I would let my punk records collect dust. If that is the case, I couldn’t have picked a better time to allow my musical taste to take on the guise of a stoned 16-year old in a small Midwestern town. Right now, there are tons of amazing hard rock and proto-metal bands making absolutely incredible albums, in terms of sonic experimentation and an adherence to the age old idea of rockin’ really fuckin’ hard.

One of my new favorites is an English trio by the name of Jecano, a group part of the rare breed of hard rock that actually exercises a modicum of restraint. From the sound of their recorded efforts (available as free downloads on their website), this trio have the chops to fill each song with guitar and drum pyrotechnics, but mercifully yank on the reins and keep things as simple as their brand of aggressive rock will allow. “Tyrewall,” from their 2002 EP Monument III¸ highlights this, but also showcases their front man’s combination of hot asphalt gargling screams and more melodic, Rob Halford-esque croon.

For a slinky, Steppenwolf groove, I turn to the Canadian group, Black Mountain. This sextet, whose debut disc was released last year on Jagjaguwar, has the rare ability to sound both dangerous and sexy in equal measures, especially on the track “Druganaut.” The slow roll of the drums and wordless moans from leader Stephen McBean would be more than enough but are gloriously superseded by fire-breathing power chords and enrapturing vocal interludes courtesy of Amber Webber.

On the psych-sludge tip, The Heads, also from England, take Sabbath’s doom theory ideals to new, frightening heights. Their 2005 disc, Under the Stress of a Headlong Dive, is finally seeing the light of day in the U.S. thanks to Alternative Tentacles. The whole disc is, at times, a little meandering and rather long (the final two tracks alone are a combined 32 minutes), but several of the tracks, like “We Descend From,” are pure fuzzed-out bliss, thanks in no small part to H.O. Morgan and Paul Allen’s acid-dripping dual guitar freak outs.

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Bob Ham | 12:00 am | Comments (3)

December 12, 2006

PJ Harvey? Old news. We’ve heard it all and the verdict is: consistently hit or miss. Stories From the City, Stories from the Sea was decent and her last full length, Uh Huh Her, was a lot better than I thought it was going to be. But, all told, I prefer her less structured years. Recently I’ve been re-listening to Harvey’s 1993 “album” 4 Track Demos and I find myself wondering why I ever veered away from it.

Full of material used in future endeavors, 4 Track Demos is Harvey at her simplest and most powerful. Many of the compositions here ended up on Rid of Me in much flabbier and blunted form. 4 Track Demos is raw power—the embodiment of Harvey’s unfiltered anger.

The opening track “Rid of Me” starts off slow and builds to a chorus of spit and bile. A simple song about a woman who is being dumped, it swerves back and forth between desperation and rage. Not too far apart, you say? Harvey makes the distinction, singing “I beg you my darling / Don’t leave me I’m hurting” and then “Till you say don’t you wish you never met her!”

Another track that hits: “Hardly Wait.” A melancholy and oddly sexual song that is about as self-deprecating as Harvey has ever been, the guitar riff that drives it is beautiful. Dragged down by the undertow, Harvey croons “In my glass coffin I am waiting,” as the song dwindles to a close.

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Chris Mattix | 12:00 am | Comments (1)

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