published at eburban.com
“Epic Epic, Lisa Jaeggi’s sophomore effort, is indeed epic. The Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, describes her style as “skateboard acoustic soul”, which is probably the most accurate description. Her style has also been described as anti-folk, although her incredible story-telling abilities display how well she has captured the essence of folk – observing and responding to her environment, commenting on life as she sees it.”
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published at muzikreviews.com
The Petroleum Age is a pleasantly simple, down to earth album, great for background summer evening listening. A past-meets-future venture blending sounds of Americana with rockabilly, Philip Gibbs’ fourth studio release will reach particularly close to the hearts of Texan listeners. Gibbs fondly recounts the stories of the fights put up by Sam Houston (“Sam Houston’s Blues”) and Stephen F. Austin (“Stephen F. Austin’s Blues”) against General Santa Anna in Texas’s fight for freedom….Although the first few tracks remain enticing and impactful, towards the middle of the album the quality begins to decline. “To Block You From My Eyes” is painful to listen to and Gibbs would do well not to model any further tracks on this one. Although the guitar work is pleasant and enjoyable, blunt and heavy vocals detract too much from it to allow for success. Around the sixth track, “In the Middle of the Evening”, the balance between a “down-home” natural style and an under produced lack of musicianship is lost, making the remainder of the album a chore to get through.
Paul Simon, half of the dynamic duo Simon and Garfunkel, has been iconic in the musical environment since the 70’s, when his solo career took off. His third solo album, Still Crazy After All These Years, just re-mastered and re-released by Sony Legacy – complete with bonus tracks – is a representative sampler of how Simon’s style began to evolve.
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The Empty Spaces, a rich, multidimensional solo work by singer-songwriter Mat Shoare,
completely belies its name. A cross-genre offering, The Empty Spaces is a textured and
variegated work. Shoare stirs together instruments, sounds and sentiments smoothly,
gliding from guitar riffs to piano melodies to harmonica interludes with nary a
Read more about Mat Shoares.
Writing a review about Joni Mitchell is like trying to rewrite Beauty and the Beast, but I just recently ‘discovered’ her. I figured there’s no harm in sharing my opinion. Actually my first encounter with Mitchell’s music was in the movie Love Actually, where Mitchell’s music provides the ’emotional education’ of one of the main characters. The song Both Sides Now provides the backdrop for a highly emotional sequence in the movie, lending an earthy touch to the otherwise sparse scene with Mitchell’s round, space-filling voice.
Around the same time of my life, a friend told me that Blue was a must-hear album. I immediately got my hands on the album, excited for it, but – don’t hate me for this – I couldn’t really appreciate the album. Mitchell’s voice was almost too heavy for me; I felt like I was being borne down under the weight of the music. But I gave her a chance again recently, after hearing a cover of Blue by Cat Power. I have to say, this time around she’s managed to capture my fancy the way I expected her to the first time. Listening to her album, I’m realizing how many of her songs I’ve actually heard before, covered by other people. I had no idea. Of course there’s Blue, But there are more. I’ve been listening to A Case of You sung by Cristina Branco for so long now, but never once realized that it was a cover of Mitchell’s song. I heard Ritchie Havens’ version of Woodstock, too, with no idea of where it came from. Now that I’ve ‘discovered’ Joni Mitchell, though, I haven’t been able to change the album and listen to something else. Mitchell’s voice, her lyrics, the instrumentation, the arrangement, everything has kind of captured my attention and entranced me.
I do have to say I’m not a huge fan of some of the more upbeat songs, like All I Want on Blue. I think Mitchell’s style of singing as well as the timbre of her voice are better suited to the slow, melodic, pensive type of song. I do appreciate her versatility in singing, but I can’t personally enjoy the more bouncy songs.
Both Sides Now and Blue are probably my favorite songs of Mitchell’s right now. It might change, but the fullness of her voice and the depth of the emotion it convey are really worth listening to at least in recognition of the influence Mitchell’s music has had on folk and pop music of today.
Mitchell also managed to deal with issues that women of her time could not really tackle on a general basis, like sexual freedoms. ‘My Old Man’ tells of the joys of cohabitation without marriage. ‘We don’t need no piece of paper from the City Hall,’ she sings. She also deals openly with themes of solitude and loneliness. I think Mitchell’s songs will definitely play a part in my own ’emotional education’.
I came across Last Night I Dreamt of Mississippi by Nicolai Dunger on the compilation Late Nights with Turin Brakes. A pleasantly careworn song, sung with a nonchalant, sleepy attitude, it quickly ended up on my list of compulsively repeated songs. It starts off with a generally incomprehensible voice-over of an air hostess speaking right before takeoff, which actually has nothing to do with the rest of the song, it seems. The whole tone of the piece quickly changes with bluesy guitar chords and a catchy rhythm, which sound slightly hazy and drunk. Some unexpected notes here and there keep your attention until the fiddle starts up, with some lazy slides. The whole ensemble, even after the vocals start, has an almost trancelike cohesiveness, with very little countermelody or counterpoint. All the instrumentals follow almost the same trajectory, with Dunger’s cigarette-and-Jack-Daniels-filled voice joining right in, making the whole thing sound smooth and round. Pictures of moonless nights in the rocking chair on the porch almost fill my head but then some vague sense of desperation kicks in. It could be a much more run-of-the-mill song but somehow manages to amaze with its transparency. I haven’t heard anything else by Dunger, but I bet there’s incredible stuff out there.
In an odd coincidental sequence of events, (i realize that’s a bit of an oxymoron), I read a story by Flannery O’Connor called A Good Man is Hard to Find, and then heard a Sufjan Stevens song with the same title. I’m not quite sure if the song is based on the story, but i’m pretty sure it is. O’Connor’s stories have a gruesomely realistic tone to them, where the worst that could happen happens, in the worst way it could have happened. Her language is dark, her themes are dark, her characters are self-righteously despicable. And yet, her stories are somehow appealing, gripping in an incomprehensible way. A Good Man is Hard to Find is a quintessential prototype of the blandly horrific stories O’Connor writes, a feeling-less story about a serial killer and his victims. When i read the story, it left me with a hollow feeling inside, neither pity nor sorrow. Just hollowness, emptiness. Revulsion of sorts, I suppose one could call it. But it seems that that is not what Stevens found in the story.
Stevens’ song gives an impression of delicacy, a mellow retrospective fraught with pleasant nostalgia. He starts off with his usual harmonious guitar chords with a sweet rhythm. His breathy voice joins in, with not even a hint of murder or hatred or rancor. But on a closer listen, the phrase “when I killed them” rolls into the air, an insidious reminder of the repulsive, self-righteous amorality in the society O’Connor writes about.
This has been a sort of multi-dimensional experience of a story that made an impact on me through its complete lack of impact and its inability to produce emotion in me, turning into a song that moves me, a song about hell and remorse.
The experience is odd for me because I’ve heard the song many times before and never paid much mind to it. But now that I’ve read the story, the song has a new meaning, creates new images in my mind.
In the end, I suppose a good man is hard to find, but a good song – not so hard.
If you’re interested, read the story and then hear the song.