09 August 2010

jamming: Summer 2010 Listening (I)

So Runs the World Away
Josh Ritter
This picks up where Animal Years and Historical Conquests... left off.  He manages, like his personality at his incredible stage-show, to pack some dense thought and narrative in his lyrics, but somehow come off likable and listenable.  There is a certain boyishness to his personality that really comes across in a charming and transparent way.  His previous work has shown that he can really identify with everyone from Huck Finn (ie Monster Ballads) to Townes Van Zandt (Me and Jiggs), this album allows him to undeniably and seamlessly channel the Boss (Lantern) and the Apostle Paul (Lark- Philippians 4), as well as weave folk tales about Mummy-love, shipwrecks, and hypothetical shootouts between fictional characters.  Grab on to this one, if not for the sheer thrill of hearing such a pleasing work from a staggeringly talented artist.

Dear Companion
Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore
These charming Kentucky boys have been in my ear all summer.  What they've managed to do is combine Sollee's apt, and anything-but-traditional cello and soft croon with DMM's even softer and croonier vocals and song writing to make an avante folk record that transports you to the joy and pain of Appalachia.  Throw in the atmospheric genius of My Morning Jacket's Jim James (AKA Yim Y.) and there you have it, a protest/activist record creating awareness and funds to counter mountaintop removal, under the guise of good ole Bluegrass State bluegrass.  Stand-outs for me were especially: Something, Somewhere, Sometime and Only A Song.

The Love Language
Despite the fact that you can't read about the Love Language around here without the tiresome report of the drunken and arrest-ridden history of frontman Stu McLamb (there, see how I too included it!), this album is noteworthy enough on its own.  Heart To Tell is definitely the radio track of the bunch, but there's hardly a track that doesn't catch you.  This one is but one of a slew of significant Merge releases this year.  Really enjoyable, perfect summer musak.

The Black Keys
“Let me be your everlasting light,” is quite the request. You’d think opening a disc with such an entreaty might doom it, particularly such a tongue-in-cheek sarcastic album such as this (“This is an album by the Black Keys…”). With Danger Mouse production and the deconstructed rock-blues we've come to know and love fromt his Ohio duo, such a bombastic request comes instead as a beacon, ushering in an album with so much cool and skill it threatens to soundtrack your day, like it or not.

Tribute To...
Yim Yames
Since being thrust back into the world of "Harrisongs" through some church buddies and by voyaging through the Beatles' Anthology earlier this summer, this set of George covers has been heavily rotated.  Jim James has a real knack for getting to the haunting brass tacks of the situation, that's what he does here with Long, Long, Long, Behind That Locked Door, & All Things Must Pass.

Broken Bells
Broken Bells
Call me slow, but it took me a while to understand that I am indeed a Danger Mouse fan.  He enticed me to buy the first Gnarls Barkley record at a time when I wasn't looking to buy a rap record, he's caused the Black Keys to blow up beyond any prediction Thickfreakness and Rubber Factory (killer as each of them are in their own rights) might have occasioned.  So why not throw some Shins on top of some gritty bass and percussion?  James Mercer keeps up his end of the bargain with some witty indie-rock songwriting, the only thing I really miss is the Chutes Too Narrow, Kinks-esque guitar swagger.  Probably not a valid criticism based on the fact that this isn't actually a Shins record though.

North Carolina
Twelve Thousand Armies
Probably easier found on his myspace page than anywhere else, this set of tunes from Justin Williams displays his uncanny knack for vulnerable lower-mid fi pop songcraft. Your probably more likely to hear jams like My Bag out of the mouth of other (Drug)horses, but nothing beats the original. This album bleeds like an Elliott Smith album appropriately filtered through James Wallace fuzz and antics. Tracks like Darling Let’s Breathe and Pardon the Earthquake show the range of buoyantly honest tunes that 12K Armies is capable of.

The Wild Hunt
The Tallest Man on Earth
It must be really obnoxious to play the type of music that you forces you to be consistently and legitimately compared to Bob Dylan.  Of course Swede Kristian Matsson must, if he hasn't figured out how to by now, handle this problem.  Because, besides a scattered few folks like Joe Pug, I can't see too many that shoulder this mantle more or better than he currently does.  King of Spain wound up being such a nice gloating song for my World Cup pool victory.  Other songs are so wonderfully and imaginatively crafted that they beg to speak for themselves rather than be ruined by some merely pallid description.  For instance: But now the ghost is in my jacket and my stairs were built in anger/Winding forcefully but end up where I stand/But there are no rocks or salt and nails, I low my cannons not to kill you/Simply lost the words to tell you I'm afraid (from Troubles Will Be Gone).

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