Things have gone a bit differently for Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar since Uncle Tupelo split in 1994. While both artists have found critical success since the break, Tweedy with Wilco (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born) and Farrar with Son Volt (Trace), only Tweedy has truly found popular success (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot sold over 500,000 copies and A Ghost Is Born won two Grammys).
Despite Farrar’s recent distaste for the term alt-country he has remained true to his roots during the course of his career. His current effort, Son Volt’s The Search, returns to the early brilliance of Trace but adds new layers of sound (notably keyboards and horns) to Farrar’s pointed lyrics about the current American malaise.
Probably one of my favorites of the Year of the Pig thus far (along with Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible – review coming soon, I’m enjoying it too much).
Buy The Search from the Public Radio Music Source.
Trent Reznor is many things. And apparently one of those things is an ingenious viral marketer. The newest studio album from Nine Inch Nails, Year Zero, isn’t due until April 17th (this year’s Tax Day!), but Trent’s been hypin’ it for weeks.According to Wikipedia:
On February 12, 2007, fans found that a new NIN tour T-shirt contained highlighted letters that spell out the words “I am trying to believe.” It was discovered that iamtryingtobelieve.com was registered as a website, and soon several related websites were found in the IP range, all describing a dystopian vision of the world fifteen years in the future. Many events reported on these websites take place in the year “0000”.
Additional promotional efforts have included the placement of USB drives which contained images, and mp3 files of music and static. Spectrogram analysis of the static uncovered phone numbers and additional images which have led fans to more websites and more clues.
Reznor’s promotional efforts for an album that he has said “could be about the end of the world, and [marks] a ‘shift in direction’ in that it doesn’t sound like With Teeth,” can best be described as the LOST Experience for industrial rock fans. On top of that, Trent is apparently in talks to turn his yet to be released album into a movie.
Will it all be worth it? I guess we’ll find out four weeks from today.
In the meantime, here are the three tracks that have been leaked.
Before I ever listened to Five Foot Nine, their height-referenced name made me think of this scene from the classic Chevy Chase comedy, Fletch. Fletch is dreaming that he is the Los Angeles Lakers’ 6th Man.
[kml_flashembed movie=”http://www.youtube.com/v/r7HQkPr9Ek4″ width=”425″ height=”350″ wmode=”transparent” /]
Now 5’9″ – a far cry from 6’5″ (6’9″ with the afro) – is said to be the average height of adult human males. But I gotta tell ya, Chicago’s Five Foot Nine is hardly average.
On paper they sound kinda like that band you had in college – guy/girl vocals… handclaps… cellos (?!?) – but on their self-titled debut CD they are anything but. This group of veteran musicians combines elements of Wishing Like a Mountain and Thinking Like the Sea-era Poi Dog Pondering with Lulu-like Trip Shakespeare and dashes of Natalie Merchant and Neko Case thrown in to create enjoyable folk-driven pop.
Buy Five Foot Nine from
Oh! How I am the self-proclaimed “slacker-bastard child” of (((withoutsound))). I enjoy being able to write and share all of my worthy aural adventures, and am grateful for the opportunity allowed by the two cool cats that run this BotB bitchin’ venue. However, my academic lifestyle hasn’t been the most accommodating to the documentation of all my melodic archaeological digs. But fear not! I have been given a bone! So with this bone that was fetched by this Year of the Dog, I will take full advantage to reflect, and exhibit this past year’s most successful conquests.
My Top 10 Bitchin’ Albums of the Year
So it was the Year of the Dog?! Psh! More like Year of the Schmog, and by Schmog I mean Horse(!)…of course. Two stallions made my 2006 list: Band of Horses and Rock Plaza Central’s Are We Not Horses?. Seven weeks too late was the release of Besnard Lakes’ Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse, which has been cruisin’ my ear canals, as if it were a water taxi in the French Rivieria. Then we would have had a trinity of horse, and you know what they say about trinities? Me neither, but I bet they say something Star Wars-ish, Lord of the Rings-esque, or Indiana Jones-y *tapping my desk in speculation*. Anyways enough of this jibby-jab, and on with jibby-jab in the form of list!
10 Grizzly Bear – Yellow House
Grizzly Horse, er I mean Grizzly Bear, not to be confused with the Ohio band Bears saluted by Seamus, is a different breed of bear all together. Their sound doesn’t come across fierce as one would think a Grizzly Bear would sound, but more eloquent and precise with orchestra-like sweeping arrangements. The album is titled Yellow House after the house that they recorded the album in, but I think it describes their sound best. The album sounds like an old Victorian-style house filled with centuries of mysteries. I, for one, am compelled to solve them. Who else is in?
9 Rock Plaza Central – Are We Not Horses?
What We Said Then:
The songs beautifully alternate between themes of apprehension to stock-sure confidence, frustrated naivety to enlightened clarity, and gritty disrepute to shining glory. The music grinds and soars accordingly, accenting the multifarious feelings and emotions triggered by our robotic friends’ transformational journey. Needless to say, it’s a well-bred affair.
8 Sunset Rubdown – Shut Up, I Am Dreaming
What can I say? Spencer Krug is one prolific and consistent musician. He must be taking notes from his Swan Lake band-mate, and (((withoutsound))) favorite Destroyer’s Dan Bejar. When he’s not busy knocking down awesomely good albums in the super-groups Wolf Parade and Swan Lake (not to mention contributing to Frog Eyes), he is making even more satisfying music in his solo gig, Sunset Rubdown. He is in full creative control on the album Shut Up, I’m Dreaming. He finally has a whole album length of room to stretch out his balladry tendons and flex his anthem muscles. May I ask you what’s better than an album full of ballads and anthems?
7 Man Man – Six Demon Bag
No ‘best of’ list is complete without some good ole European polka flavored waltz, and I ain’t talkin’ about your drunk German Grandpa’s Frank Yankovich records. Six Demon Bag may not be Celtic but it will have you beltin’ out sing-a-longs as if you were six pints deep in a pub in Ireland. *Warning: Do not play this record in traffic with the windows down. Adam Sandler wouldn’t even understand your paraphrasing of “All I want to be is a shovely bubbly gobbly gook” let alone the commuter next to you (they all gonna laugh at you). If you’ve given this record an honest try and it still doesn’t garner your appreciation, I urge you to see this troupe live. They put on one of the best and most energetic live shows I’ve ever seen, and that alone is worthy of a spot on this list.
6 M. Ward – Post-War
After spending a considerable amount of time exploring the outer rims of the universe, I like to ground myself with a nice slice of timeless Americana. M. Ward has become one of my earthly staples, and his latest album Post-War has got me mountain bed-bound. While listening to this album, I often imagine M. Ward co-billing a Sun Records tour with the Man in Black, Johnny Cash. His sound can easily translate into the golden-era decade. Speaking of translations, how thematic is the Post-War jewel, Chinese Translation, for this Year of the Dog reflection? The track is what I call an M. Wardian fortune cookie, and Jim James is there to help you crack it open and take the proverbial ride… in bed! Zing! (Wait a minute: Ew.)
5 Band of Horses – Everything All The Time
What We Said Then:
How much would you enjoy a super group made up of Doug Martsch (Built to Spill), James Mercer (the Shins), and Rob Crow (Pinback)? Wouldn’t they just create the most relaxing yet rocking, strong-enough-for-a-woman but-made-for-a-man kind of music?
4 Nobody & The Mystic Chords of Memory – Tree Colored See
Mix two parts psychedelic folk with one part hip-hop and you will find yourself at my #4. Nobody is beat-maker Elvin Estella, and Mystic Chords of Memory is estranged Beachwood Sparks member Chris Gunst and his newly-wed wife Jennifer Gunst. I know what you’re thinking, and let me assure you it works. Don’t get this confused with some shitty rap-rock band – this is different territory. I believe this to be one of the most beautifully and melodically lush albums of the year, and to prove it you can cut open it’s belly to see how many of my Sunday mornings it has consumed.
3 Vetiver – To Find Me Gone
Upon first reviewing the track listing for Vetiver’s To Find Me Gone, I was disappointed to see the song “Been So Long” included as the lead-off track. It was one of only two studio tracks on the 2005 EP Between. I don’t like previously purchased songs taking up precious real estate on a highly anticipated new release. I almost skipped directly over it to get to the new goods, but now I know why it’s on the new album. They reworked it by stripping it down and rebuilding it. It begins with a quiet drone which is followed by a tribal heart-beat pulsing drum, and is ultimately accompanied by breathy chanting background vocals. This song builds like a slow train gaining a slow momentum until it finally breaks and has a return to form, a return to the familiar. Beautifully executed so much so it gave me goose bumps; they took an acoustic ballad and turned into something more, something spiritual. The first song sets the tone for the growth the band has achieved. To Find Me Gone is really to find me home.
2 Brightblack Morning Light – Brightblack Morning Light
What We Said Then:
Their music itself creates a home-spun cocoon of comfort. This is good mellow stuff. Don’t hold your breath anticipating a change in tempo. Just allow the mellow moods to drift you away.
1 Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – The Letting Go
Like most of my experiences with Will Oldham, this album did not hook me upon my initial listen – it was a grower. It’s not that there are unconventional sounds and melodies to adjust to, in fact it is quite the opposite: it is conventional, stripped-down and bare. It does what Oldham does best; it stirs up a lot of uneasiness, and then nurtures to gratification. I wasn’t able to just throw on the new Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy album to uplift the spirit as I rocked out the mundane normal daily tasks. It would not give up that kind of power, for this LP demanded full attention along with long melodic marinating. It was even, at first, impossible to play the album over conventional speakers. It required the intimacy of an ear-locked headphone commitment. I had to experience these confessional tales as if they were my own. The more I listened, the more I found comfort in the battling elements of light and dark the album effortlessly weaves together. The result is an excellent representation of what a harmonious yin yang symbol would sound like.