Music at Elsewhere

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Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses: Roadhouse Sun (Lost Highway)

30 Aug 2009

American singer-songwriter Bingham's voice was so lived in and road-hardened on his debut Mescalito (a Best of Elsewhere 2008 album) that he sounded like a man far beyond his mid-20s. He seemed to have literally lived the rough roadhouse life and whisky bars that others could only suggest they had. You didn't doubt his stories of hard times but this time out with a band (under a... > Read more

Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses: Change Is

Allen Toussaint: The Bright Mississippi (Nonesuch/Warners)

30 Aug 2009

This godfather and keeper-of-the-keys in New Orleans music has popped up quite a lot recently in a more mainstream popular culture context by appearing on albums with James Hunter and Elvis Costello (The River in Reverse), and would be well known to Elsewhere readers. For this album however (produced by the remarkable Joe Henry) the pianist/arranger goes right back to the early jazz era of... > Read more

Allen Toussaint: West End Blues

Dappled Cities: Zounds (Inertia/Border)

30 Aug 2009

This Sydney-formed band don't lack the grand gesture: this album is chock full of wide screen, sweeping, heroically realised pop-rock noise propelled by massive guitars, strings, the kitchen sink etc. They do however lack consistent and tight songs which might have allowed this to have greater impact (in the manner of Empire of the Sun, Pop Levi, Mika, MGMT and the like) but my impression... > Read more

Dappled Cities: Miniature Atlas

Jones: Hopeland (Meme)

30 Aug 2009

The surname behind this belongs to Trevor Jones who is one half of Miracle Mile, a British outfit previously featured at Elsewhere (their Coffee and Stars) who deliver glistening, almost ambient, adult pop music which whispers and understates in a poetic, melodic manner -- and which is often rejected by those who don't hear pop perfection as a worthy goal. I do, I like Miracle Mile. This... > Read more

Jones: Girl on a Bridge

Lisa Crawley: Hello, Goodbye and Everything In Between (Crawley)

29 Aug 2009

Crawley is something of a rising star in New Zealand music, but I doubt it is for the astonishingly dull openers on this five-song EP. Both Brother and Back to You sound like pallid songs written for a high school (possibly intermediate school) end-of-year production. And Crawley delivers them in such a li'l girl-cutesy way you wonder if she sucked her thumb between takes. Much better are... > Read more

Lisa Crawley: Brother

Tortoise: Beacons of Ancestorship (UNSPK)

24 Aug 2009

As the band most likely to be cited when the discussion turned to "post-rock", this five-piece from Chicago have been critically acclaimed for their magpie tendencies (they lift from prog-rock, free jazz, punk, post-punk, electronica, Can and other equally unconstrained Krautrock bands) but largely haven't connected with an audience beyond the cooler-than-thou crowd. Let it be... > Read more

Tortoise: Minors

The Cave Singers: Welcome Joy (Matador)

24 Aug 2009

The debut album by this trio out of Seattle, Invitation Songs, took up residence at Elsewhere for its slightly odd, alt.folk and Old Time America quality which was propelled over the finger-picking and rocking beats by Peter Quirk's somewhat . . . err . . . quirky voice. This follows a similar path: acoustic folk-rock; a sense of mystery and darkness; understatement rather than... > Read more

The Cave Singers: Shrine

Odawas: The Blue Depths (Rhythmethod)

24 Aug 2009

Some albums are very hard to describe, this one by an ambient, slightly trippy duo from California isn't: imagine gentle Neil Young-folk coming at you from a distance but wrapped in a kind of warm synth sound like Vangelis or Kitaro (without the twee bits). Titles like Our Gentle Life Together, Secrets of the Fall, Moonlight/Twilight and Harmless Lover's Discourse only assist further in... > Read more

Odawas: Secrets of the Fall

Matt Joe Gow and the Dead Leaves: The Messenger (Essence)

24 Aug 2009

I especially like this line in Matt Joe Gow's bio: "Like most New Zealanders with any imagination, Matt soon found himself compelled to stray beyond the boundaries of his wonderful counmtry . . ."Kind of a back-handed compliment there from an Australian, I guess. Still, no artist should ever be held to their bio and this one was clearly written for international consumption because... > Read more

Matt Joe Gow and the Dead Leaves: At the Bar

Richmond Fontaine: "We Used to Think the Freeway Sounded Like A River" (Southbound)

24 Aug 2009    4

This exceptional, and exceptionally consistent, group out of Portland with songwriter and novelist Willy Vlautin at its core has appeared at Elsewhere previously. Way back in 2005 with the penetrating album The Fitzgerald, and later for Vlautin's stark novel The Motel Life which invites favourable comparisons with writers such as Larry McMurtry, Cormac (No Country for Old Men) McCarthy and... > Read more

Richmond Fontaine: A Letter to the Patron Saint of Nurses

Drive By Truckers: Live from Austin, Tx (New West CD/DVD)

23 Aug 2009    1

You would have thought live albums might have died out shortly after the arrival of MTV when people could finally see the bands whose albums they were hearing. But no, live albums still come -- although the smart bands now combine a CD with a DVD, as do Drive By Truckers, a longtime Elsewhere favourite whose previous albums (and the recent solo outing by Patterson Hood, and that by Bettye... > Read more

Drive By Truckers: Perfect Timing

Dr Colossus: Dr Colossus (Independent EP)

23 Aug 2009

As with the Benka Boradovsky Bordello Band which also borrows from gypsy music, klezmer, flat-tack Russian folk and so on, this 4-track EP (actually just three, the 35 second thing at the start is just scene-setting) is mostly high on energy and enjoyment, but seems to be all over the place. In a good way if you are knocking back vodka slammers, I guess. The addition of Sixties surf guitar... > Read more

Dr Colossus: Arrrpegiator

Rebel Peasant: The Walls of the Well (Rebel Peasant)

23 Aug 2009    1

These mostly gentle instrumentals by a founder member of the Phoenix Foundation (a drummer, but here steering various bandmates and others through his own self-produced material in his home studio) confirms what a rich source of talent that band contains . . . and what Rebel Peasant (aka Richie Singleton) is. Like a moody, layered, slightly dubby soundtrack to movies where the tension is... > Read more

Rebel Peasant: Affair at Fabyan

William Fitzsimmons: The Sparrow and the Crow (Inertia)

23 Aug 2009

If this hushed folk album was written after a divorce as has been suggested then that explains a lot: it is introspective; the lovely vocals barely rise above a whisper; and the lean, pointed lyrics address all manner of separation emotions (We Feel Alone, If You Would Come Back Home, Please Forgive Me, You Still Hurt Me, They'll Never Take The Good Years are among the song titles). While... > Read more

William Fitzsimmons: If You Would Come Back Home

The Eels: Hombre Lobo (Vagrant)

22 Aug 2009

Some weeks ago I reviewed this album by the wayward and often quite wonderful Eels for the New Zealand Listener. In case you missed it, that column is here. > Read more

Chris Eckman: The Last Side of the Mountain (Glitterhouse/Yellow Eye)

18 Aug 2009

Eckman has been one of the cornerstones of the long-running and very credible alt.country outfit the Walkabouts, has released solo albums, and been a member of the ever-evolving Willard Grant Conspiracy. All of which should recommend him if you follow this particular path of string-augmented, soul-baring songwriting. But the material for the bulk of this album comes from an unusual source:... > Read more

Chris Eckman (with Anita Lipnicka): Who Will Light Your Path?

Joe Henry: Blood From Stars (Anti)

18 Aug 2009

There is something pointless and not a little depressing writing about another fine Joe Henry album: the 18 people who love his work probably already know of the album, and as for the rest . . . ? I guess Henry is always destined to remain something of a private passion, but it is one that Elsewhere would (again) like to share. His last album Civilians was a Best of Elswehere 2007 pick, and... > Read more

Joe Henry: This is my Favourite Cage

Cybiont: A Trilogy of Random Thoughts and Considerations (Cybiont)

17 Aug 2009

First let it be noted that this album by a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Northland is not an easy proposition, and nor does it give up its manic diversity that easily. The title is some kind of clue and you may well think, as I do, that someone outside the project might have been brought in for a little editing as Cybiont doesn't seem capable of it himself. That said... > Read more

Cybiont: Whakaarahia!

Opensouls: Standing in the Rain (Dirty)

17 Aug 2009

To be honest, I wasn't expecting to like this quite as much as I do. Certainly some songs lack a soulful punch and you'd wish for more power in the vocals of Tyra at times. But these people write a good tune -- albeit it grounded in Motown classic riffs and shifts -- and the edgy guitars elevate it a little more than I had anticipated. It is soul with a subtle injection of rock, and that's... > Read more

Opensouls: Dollars

Judith Owen: Mopping Up Karma (Courgette)

17 Aug 2009

This album came out many months ago and for some reason slipped my attention: it might have continued to sit in the pile while more pressing albums came along were it nor for the alarming inner sleeve which I just discovered in which Owen looks like a slightly younger but equally buttoned-up-in-leather version of Frau Blucher in Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein. Not that such an image should... > Read more

Judith Owen: Message From Heaven