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   Saturday, November 30, 2002  
Interviewed recently for Swizzle-stick, Trampoline Records' co-founder (and Jukebox Junkie) Marc Dauer surveys the nascent label's horizon: "We'll probably start by re-issuing a few Gingersol records, and the Jukebox Junkies record, with new records by all around the beginning of next year." Hmm...maybe not actually, Marc, as Steve & Seth report that 'Gingersol is happy to have signed with Rubric Records, who will officially release Trainwreck on Feb 18. A CD release party/tour kick off to follow on Feb 21 at CBGBs (w/ the Silos and Richard Lloyd). Gingersol is planning to start recording again for it's next Rubric release.'

And, while we wait for that, what to tide us over? Maybe this: "[The album] fuses a dusty Americana sound with elements of the indie-pop that charged American college rock in the nineties. Intentionally retaining the lo-fi aesthetic that made their earliest demos so successful, it's a stunning debut." Though it easily could be, that's not snatched from a review of Gingersol's Nothing stops moving but actually Splendid's view on Kansas band The Belles upcoming release, Omerta. Label Lakeshore offers a full track taster, with more samples to be had here - hardly fair to judge on a 30-second snatch, admittedly, but Estranged particularly sounds like a Tagliere cast-off...

'I saw a spaceship fly by your window'
Aah, but did you, Damien, did you really? No, of course not, it's just a lyrical conceit grasping for some kind of unworldly romantic redolence, and it's also more or less the stepping-off point for reallyrather's ride with O, the solo debut from Damien Rice. Wildly lauded in certain quarters, this blog's reaction was similar to that when confronted with a generous helping of Christmas pudding - the first few morsels are lovely but it all starts to get a bit rich by halfway. The line above is taken from track 6, Amie, though there are warning signs in the one before (Older chests) where we're told that 'Papa went to other lands' and boy entreats girl, 'read me your favourite lines,' as the cello swells. The cumulative preciousness, and Rice's relentlessly earnest emoting - he means it Truly, Madly, Deeply - gradually overwhelms this listener . The front end of the album is loaded with lovely tunes given room to breathe by sparing production. A warm acoustic band sound sets off Rice's strong, sometimes breathy, vocal. The 'strings' at this point consist of just the resonant woody scrape of a single cello; later it all gets a bit sweepingly cinematic and tumultuous, sadly out of scale with what went before. Treat it, as this blog does, as a really strong 5-track EP...

And talking of things sadly out of scale, what are we to make of news that The Be Good Tanyas return to London in March to play, er, the Royal Festival Hall?! Don't know about them, but reallyrather is nervous already...
   posted by SMc at 10:48 AM |

   Wednesday, November 20, 2002  
Everyone's favourite female Canadian folk-pop trio The Be Good Tanyas have apparently finished recording their follow-up to Blue horse - look for Chinatown early in '03...

Blue horse won't be on this blog's Year's Best list simply because it was on last year's, ditto The Polyphonic Spree. (Happily, domestic release is now completely irrelevant issue for the consumer yet still seems to dictate even the least hidebound music radio.) reallyrather predicts that both these albums will feature on the year-end music mag lists...
Mojo/Uncut Year's best: guess list update:
Doves - The last broadcast
Beth Gibbons/Rustin Man - Out of season
Cornershop - Handcream for a generation
Vines - Highly evolved
Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Springsteen - The rising
The Streets - Original pirate material
Bright Eyes - Lifted, or..
Lambchop - Is a woman
Queens of the Stone Age - Songs for the deaf
Boards of Canada - Geogaddi
The Coral - The Coral
Flaming Lips - Yoshimi..
Foo Fighters - One by one
Tom Waits - whichever
Damien Rice - O
Alison Moorer - Miss Fortune
The Polyphonic Spree - Beginning..
Eminem - The Eminem show
Johnny Cash - The man comes..
Coldplay - Rush of blood..
Be Good Tanyas - Blue Horse
So which will be no.1? Well, Uncut have already nailed their colours firmly to the mast in calling the Flaming Lips album the best in five years. Mojo must also be tempted to go with Yoshimi.. but may not want to be beaten to it by their rival. Last year's selection of the Super Furry Animals was ever-so-slightly leftfield - if they wanted to stick their neck out again (and allowed themselves a little revisionism), the Bright Eyes album would be a great choice. But they'll probably fall back on Beth Gibbons, which their review proposed as one of the greatest albums ever! The polar opposite view is to be found in this month's Loaded which damns Out of season as 'folky shite...even worse than Jethro Tull'. So cruel, that Tull jibe! (If reallyrather could be moved to summon an opinion it'd likely fall somewhere in between...)

To the Borderline for Californian roots-rockers Jackpot. Actually, their rootsy side didn't really show until the last few numbers as the band concentrated naturally enough on the smart pop-rock to be found on new album Shiny things. A tight, loose-limbed quartet lead by grainy-voiced Rusty Miller (cutting a bit of a Mick Jones figure beneath his baseball cap), they showcased the clipped, crowd-pleasing tunes which litter this album. Far far far, the radio-ready Psycho Ballerina and a nicely beefed-up Big house all hit the spot, crisp dual guitars and harmonies riding the snappy rhythm section. The sound on much of Shiny things had this listener scouring the liner notes for the 'Ric Ocasek' production credit only to discover that the shiniest among these 14 things were buffed up by Mr Chuck Prophet. Maybe two tracks too long, the album also has power-pop (Hide in the frequency), electro-pop (Levitate) and a funky little effort called Throw away your misery which includes an outbreak of what can only be described as Saturday Night Fever! By no means a total makeover, it's an altogether smarter attempt at reaching a wider audience than, say, Marah's overblown Float away... Reaching back into their catalogue, the latter part of the live set upped the twang and balls-out rock quotients, muddying the waters more than somewhat. But good value, nonetheless...

Tho' they contain words like 'bipedal' and 'hatchet', the lyrics on Shiny things don't really repay close inspection; it's highly enjoyable but - in the least perjorative sense possible - fairly superficial stuff. To anyone tempted to buy it, reallyrather would also recommend simultaneous purchase of the new Tracker album, Polk, as not so much an antidote, more a complementary contrast to Shiny things', well, shininess. Musically, Rusty Miller might recognize a kindred spirit in John Askew's songs on Polk but the whole record (including 3 instrumentals) is an altogether more atmostpheric and absorbing ride. There's a 'David Lynch' mood in places, notably on opener Nova Pt.1 which marries that old 'Take 5' bass riff with spooky guitar suggestive of some cult '60s tv show. An Eno instrumental cover fits right in, reflecting the lunar qualites of the sub-blasted desert highway depicted on the sleeve. The eight songs are essentially strong folk-pop scuffed up in an M.Ward-meets-CentroMatic kind of way with crashing chords and other electric sounds fizzling about the place. Distance is the sun, Photographing the ancestors and particularly Chemistry stand out but there's really little here you'd want to skip. Recommended...

Matt Ward does in fact appear on the Tracker album, as does Adam Selzer of Norfolk & Western who turn up at The Garage in Islington Nov 23...
   posted by SMc at 7:39 AM |

   Thursday, November 14, 2002  
Bright Eyes Dingwalls Camden Tues night
Blimey, these temperamental creative types, dontcha just love 'em? It was about three-quarters through what hitherto had been a perfectly fine set that the wheels threatened to come right off. With something of a track record as a moody, knife-edge performer, Conor Oberst transformed from compelling, combative troubadour ("I can't play guitar good enough to be a wanker") to petulant arse before our eyes. For the best part of ten minutes the show hung in the balance.
Up to that point, as said, things were going fine. A constantly evolving band of up to 12 players (comprising support acts Azure Ray & The Good Life, plus Mike 'If it's got strings I'll pluck it' Mogis & others) delivered up the first eight songs from Year's Best contender Lifted, or.. and the odd old favourite (Calendar hung itself). Ranking about 7th in this blog's order of favouritism on 'Lifted', Lover I don't have to love stood out as the most galvanising moment; the more delicate bloom of blog fave Nothing gets crossed out fared a bit less well. The rousing waltz of False advertising couldn't really fail, with all hands on deck sawing, hitting, blowing or squeezing anything they could get their hands on. Excellento.
So then Conor meanders across to the keyboard, has a drink and a quick drag, moans about the equipment and kicks off another number. Calls a halt a minute in. The band goes again. Halt! And again. Walks up to the centre mic and spits at it (and anyone close by). Uniquely impressed by his rock'n'roll outrageousness, repeats said action. The crowd's indulgence of all this was exceeded only by that of the members of the band (tho' Mogis made his excuses and left, never to return). Fixating for some reason on Maria Taylor (drums, vocals), Oberst then stood pointedly in front of her while bashing out the chords to 'Let's all shit ourselves'. Taylor sought refuge in the uncompicated kicking beat that song demanded of her, flicking up the odd glance to see if he'd gone away yet. Finally, finally the boy got back round to the business in hand, he and the band plucking victory from the jaws of defeat with that epic twanging stomper. Phew, as they say...
Anyone up for Round Two, ULU on Dec 9? See you there...

For those wondering where next for Jeff Tweedy/Wilco one answer would seem to be Loose Fur: 'A combination of folk, pop, rock and free riffage, this is O'Rourke, Kotche, and Tweedy, all rolled together in one enormous bomber,' says label Drag City of this combo featuring YankeeHF producer Jim O, and Wilco's Glenn K and Jeff T. Look for Loose Fur in early '03, apparently...

And speaking of Glenn Kotche, he percussed on Wonder wonder, the rather lovely most recent album from Edith Frost. She's presently over in Europe tho' sadly the UK appears not to be on her itinerary. What's she sound like? Well, a combination of two women who will be playing London the first week of December, Caitlin Cary and Nina Nastasia gets you pretty damn close. Now if only an impromptu meeting could be engineered...
   posted by SMc at 2:59 PM |

   Saturday, November 09, 2002  
It's out there somewhere...
The rickety old reallyrather skiff has been surfing around, trawling the depths for sonic pearls and not without reward. Trusty media players at the ready as reallyrather suggests this well-matched little trinity:

Jesse Harris & the Ferdinandos - If he asks you that
By now you probably know someone who's got that Norah Jones album. When you're next round there, take a crafty look at the credits while your host is fixing the coffee. Half the songs are by this guy (and he's in the band so it's hardly make-or-break time for his own release, Crooked Lines). Don't let that put you off. This track's like, er, Elvis Costello meets James Taylor, but in a good way...
One Star Hotel - Gravity
'I've seen people fall in ways that gravity can't explain'
From this Philly band's '02 debut. A bit like Gingersol meets Wilco - in what ways could that not be good?
Folktrash - Before today
No proper releases yet from whoever Mr Folktrash is, just a few promising mp3s. This neat midtempo strummer is also not a million miles from Gingersol territory...
All this and Christmas still weeks away - you lucky people...

Day jobs of the stars No. 5 - Dave Scher, Beachwood Sparks:
'When the group's not touring, cash flow can get "a little patchy." Thus, Farmer Dave's Hot Nuts: Scher cooks up his aunt's recipe for spiced almonds, packs them in bags at $2 increments, slaps on a hand-drawn label and peddles them where he can. Scher also gives music lessons, paints furniture with a friend, installs drip systems in gardens and draws designs for his girlfriend's store.' (From a good piece about the musically fecund scene in LA's Echo Park neighbourhood.)

'One of the year's best .. its eleven tracks play out like the diary of an optimistic Fifties pop star whose music has been deflowered by electric guitars and synthesizers, crushed and disenchanted by lost love and broken homes.'
You're getting the picture, surely?! This week's Miami New Times chats to Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis..

..and, looking around, this blog is not alone in it's appreciation of The execution of all things:
'This is, hands down, the best record this year that most people will not hear' / Washington Times
'Indie pop doesn't come much more gorgeous than this' / Boston Herald
'..a wonderful balance of beautiful indie rock and subtle country - 4.5/5' / AMG
Hear here...
   posted by SMc at 11:05 AM |

   Tuesday, November 05, 2002  
'So fucking beautiful...'
It's just great when a favourite act you've championed on the strength of a smart debut actually comes through and tops it second time around. Get the bunting out, Mother - it's the new Rilo Kiley! The execution of all things is a cracking little record. Though the growth and progression are unmistakable, reallyrather is happy to report that the band's singular, quirky indie-rocking charm has survived intact. A distinctly more cohesive set than Take offs and landings, the strokes are also less broad (trumpet begone!) and the compositions are a bit more focused than, say, the glorious sprawl of Pictures of success.
A number like Spectacular views, with it's skidding riffs and tumbling drums, is as succinct and crisply rocking a statement of intent as you could wish. That it's the last track on the album and not the opener points up the difference between RK's idiosyncratic approach and that of someone like Florida's The Rocking Horse Winner. Not entirely dissimilar but way more conventionally-shaped, it's hard to believe there was much debate in that camp over where to place the mighty Orange blossom in the running order of this year's superficially terrific album, Horizon. Demonstrating how RK's sound has moved on, TEOAT actually kicks off with The good that won't come out, a great combination of The Mendoza Line, Unwed Sailor and Bontempi beatbox. The classic indie chime of Paint's peeling briefly breaks into what passes for a Rilo Kiley roar, a few more bars of which would've been most acceptable.
Unaccountably, not everyone is won over by the sing-song, almost nursery rhyme-like tendency of Jenny Lewis' vocal & melodies. To this listener their inherent deliciousness is further enhanced when carrying lines like
Then we'll murder what matters to you and move on to your neighbours and kids. Crush all hopes of happiness with disease...
from the title track. Her style also heightens the impact of the occasional strategically deployed F-word, as in A better son/daughter. (Never ones to be hidebound by hackneyed conventions like rhyming and stuff, this song also makes a decent case for the redundancy of punctuation.) The pedal steel/banjo of Saddle Creek Records mainstay Mike Mogis grace several numbers but oddly not those with the most twangish undertones, Capturing moods and the joyous acoustic singalong With arms outstretched.
So, top tunes, diverting prose, ripping guitars and J-J-Jenny Lewis - some kind of nirvana for sweet-toothed indie rock types, surely?!

It must be a tad frustrating if you're up there on stage throwing down numbers which positively shout 'audience participation', only to be faced with a few nodding heads and tapping feet. To the cosy Brixton boho den that is The Windmill on Sunday night for a zinging session from The Vessels before 60-or so coolly inert Americana buffs. Maybe it was asking a bit much for such a gathering to join in the throaty roar of Hey hey or Delight's rousing coda, or indeed to start flinging themselves about to the effervescent Motown romp that is 31st floor. Will it ever happen for Paul Cook and the band? Well, as anyone who's got the debut album knows, there's so far not a duff tune in the bag and the couple of new ones heard on Sunday (When it all comes down - ?) more than held their own. It wouldn't be hard to imagine someone like Lindsay Buckingham, or Macca even, tipping a hat to their neat, melodically robust compositions. Grand Drive have signed them up to open their UK shows this month. Haven't heard their new album but on the strength of Sunday's show, it strikes this blog as a generous and possibly foolhardy gesture...
   posted by SMc at 4:05 AM |