Music at Elsewhere

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BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011 Wire: Red Barked Tree (Pink Flag)

19 Dec 2011

In the late Seventies Wire delivered a trifecta of classic post-punk, minimalist and arty albums -- Pink Flag, Chairs Missing and 154 – then called it a day. In subsequent decades they reformed dropping drummer Robert Gotobed to appear as an alt.electro-rock outfit (not much cop), in the past decade their sound became more aggressive and impressive, Gotobed returned -- and now Bruce... > Read more

Wire: Adapt

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011 Howe Gelb and a Band of Gypsies: Alegrias (Fire)

19 Dec 2011    2

The enormously prolific Howe Gelb (interviewed here in depth) is behind the Tucson band Giant Sand (from which Calexico became a more commercially successful split-off) and has also recorded a dozen albums under his own name. And as a reissue programme of about 30 Sand/Gelb albums starts to filter through he also releases this, a beguiling project which saw him taking his dark vocals,... > Read more

Howe Gelb and A Band of Gypsies: The Hangin' Judge

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011 Jeffrey Foucault: Horse Latitudes (Signature)

19 Dec 2011    1

For his first album of originals in five years – the follow-up to his gripping Ghost Repeater – this beardy and rustic Americana singer/songwriter ups the stakes as his strong, dark brown and assured voice takes on life, loss and love in iron-hard images which bring to mind Leonard Cohen (“strange birds on the fence line, it's going to get cold tonight”) or Tom... > Read more

Last Night I Dreamed of Television

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011 Marcin Wasilewski Trio: Faithful (ECM/Ode)

19 Dec 2011

Pianist Wasilewski who leads this trio has appeared a number of times previously at Elsewhere, with this group, as a member of Tomasz Stanko's ensemble and with trumpetr Enrico Rava. He -- and his trio -- has impressed every time. But this album finds them really pushing themselves: Night Train to You is a 10 minute piece which swings and is full of sparking, energetic piano; the album... > Read more

Woke Up in the Desert

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011 Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop)

19 Dec 2011    1

A propos of not much, Fleet Foxes' chief songwriter Robin Pecknold recently recorded New Zealand singer-songwriter Chris Thompson's Where is My Wild Rose? for an EP and it appears on You Tube (just with stills) here. But . . . to the matter in hand. If it's fair to say FFoxes' debut album was unexpected, then we might also observe that this one is highly anticipated. However their... > Read more

Fleet Foxes: Battery Kinzie

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011 Paul Simon: So Beautiful Or So What (Hear Music)

19 Dec 2011    1

One of the things Paul Simon is seldom given credit for is his sense of humor. He too often comes off the kind of earnest New York Jewish singer-songwriter you imagine reads Dostoevsky at night but listens to doo-wop and old soul because he thinks it might be good for him. Yet this is the man who did that clip for You Can Call Me Al with Chevy Chase, and his lyrics are often punctuated with... > Read more

Paul Simon: Dazzling Blue

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011 Iron and Wine: Kiss Each Other Clean (4AD)

19 Dec 2011    1

The previous album The Shepherd's Dog by Texas' Iron and Wine (Sam Beam) was fully three years ago and was one of the Best of Elsewhere 2007 albums. So anticipation is high for this -- although might have been higher a year ago, but I guess he works at his own pace. And we forgive him because he delivered the excellent Around the Well collection of unreleased song and rarities in mid '09.... > Read more

Iron and Wine: Half Moon

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011 Lucinda Williams: Blessed (Lost Highway)

19 Dec 2011

Although Lucinda Williams admits things are going well in her life (see interview here), she also adds that no one is ever permanently happy and she lives in this world with all its sadness and misery. And she has had a few encounters with those things herself, notably the estrangement of her brother after the death of their mother, and the death by suicide of Vic Chesnutt a few years back.... > Read more

Lucinda Williams: Ugly Truth

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011 Micah P. Hinson and the Pioneer Saboteurs: Micah P. Hinson and the Pioneer Saboteurs (Full Time Hobby)

19 Dec 2011

Recorded over a two year period and soaked in strings, this folksy rumination on the state of his nation takes its inspiration from Walt Whitman's poem Pioneers! O Pioneers!, a kind of literal and metaphorical reverse-mirror Times They Are A' Changin' of its day when the young America was flexing its muscles across the continent. Hinson uses this starting point to consider, in places, how... > Read more

Micah P. Hinson and the Pioneer Saboteurs: Seven Horses Seen

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011 Juju: In Trance (Real World)

19 Dec 2011

That alt.world between late 60s psychedelic blues-rock, frantic village folk, and fiery world music is a strange place. It's where LedZepp, speedmetal-folk, Afro-blues, the Mississippi Delta and a fiddle-playing Jimi Hendrix (who isn't Nigel Kennedy) come together and live in . . . if not harmony, then at least the same bar where they drink moonshine and palm wine. This album is... > Read more

Nightwalk

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011 Kimbra: Vows (Warners)

19 Dec 2011

For most people flicking the music channels and being confronted the relentless and facile bump'n'grind r'n'b or ever-so-serious young men with guitars, the clips by Kimbra -- formerly of Hamilton, now based in Melbourne -- come as delightful surprises. They look fresh and eye-catching, intelligent in the face of the sexed-up drivel (her musings on married life in Settle Down) and just... > Read more

Good Intent

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011 Gin Wigmore: Gravel and Wine (Universal)

19 Dec 2011

Although the remarkable Gin Wigmore mostly co-wrote here, you'd have to say it is her voice -- not just her musical voice -- which comes through with utter clarity. And yes, this extraordinary album is full of her stylistic vocal signature . . . but there is something much more interesting and exciting going on here. These days many young artists drown themselves in references: the... > Read more

If Only

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011 Keith Jarrett: Rio (ECM)

19 Dec 2011

In one of the most colourful ECM covers in memory comes this equally vibrant solo piano set by Keith Jarrett, recorded live in Rio in April 2011. This richly textured double disc -- six unnamed pieces on the first, nine on the second -- finds the pianist in total command of his gift for rhythmically complex and melodically unpredictable improvisation. Jarrett dips (and frequently dives... > Read more

Rio Part IX

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011 The Black Keys: El Camino (Nonesuch)

19 Dec 2011

Although Black Keys' previous album Brothers was on the Best of Elsewhere 2010 list and this one will certainly be in this year's final countback, the two albums are very different. Where Brothers was grounded in classic soul and old school r'n'b and blues, this one kicks up the primal rock'n'pop from the get-go. As a touchstone consider Gold on the Ceiling which sounds like the Glitter... > Read more

Run Right Back

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011 The Checks: Deadly Summer Sway (Pie Club)

19 Dec 2011

Auckland's Checks could easily have sat on their Sixties rhythm and blues-based style (think young Stones, Yardbirds, Who etc) and won themselves a wide audience, but they were always destined for something bigger than the familiar. Now 10 years on from their first but enormously impressive gigs as teenagers (I think I first saw them in a kitchen at a flat?) they have shifted their ground... > Read more

Winter Sun

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011 Fatoumata Diawara: Fatou (World Circuit)

19 Dec 2011

Yet another artist out of Mali who confirms that country -- alongside only Jamaica perhaps -- seems to have more gifted and distinctive performers per head of population than any other country on the planet. This debut from the ear-pleasing, hypnotically melodic and folk-framed Diawara is given subtle, warm and clean studio production by label boss Nick Gold in conjunction with Diawara and... > Read more

Bissa

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011 Glen Campbell: Ghost on the Canvas (Inertia)

19 Dec 2011    2

Alongside his Alzheimer's diagnosis and a farewell tour comes this self-announced “final studio album” by the 75-year old legend whose career spans from LA session guitar work in the late 50s as one of the famous Wrecking Crew on Phil Spector productions, to being a touring Beach Boy, solo hits with Jimmy Webb songs and movies all before the close of the Sixties.... > Read more

Hold on Hope

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011 Blitzen Trapper: American Goldwing (Sub Pop)

19 Dec 2011

Still sounding like they were breast-fed equal parts Grateful Dead, early Neil Young, White Album-era Beatles and Elton John's country-flavoured Tumbleweed Connection-gone-grunge, Blitzen Trapper -- an always interesting outfit from Portland -- constantly defy expectation but shift easily from songs about drinkin' whisky in a car to casually psychedelic country, and aren't ashamed to kick... > Read more

Girl in a Coat

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011 The Bats: Free All the Monsters (Flying Nun)

19 Dec 2011

The rolling, aural signature of the Bats' guitars and locked-in rhythm section has always sounded at its best when it drops the tempo and engages with a romantically woozy sound which -- when married to lyrics of optimism and gentleness -- just brings a smile. This lovely album - which doesn't stray far from their template -- will have you smiling with recognition and warmth as it unveils... > Read more

When the Day Comes

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011 Tom Waits: Bad As Me (Anti)

19 Dec 2011    4

At the end of the local edition of this exceptional album -- Tom Waits' first studio album in seven years -- there is a disconcerting litany of images entitled with seeming certainty After You Die, but which in fact asks the more pointed question, "what is it like after we die?" Waits yowls through it like a man broken on a rack, and it's a scary ending to an album which touches... > Read more

Satisfied