Music at Elsewhere

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BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008: Radiohead: In Rainbows (XL)

22 Dec 2008    3

Over the Christmas 07-08 period I heard a radio interview with a young musician denouncing the gross villany of major record companies -- about which I expect he had no personal experience -- and pointing to Radiohead's on-line/download release in October 2007 of In Rainbows (with buyers paying what they liked for it) as evidence the music industry was tottering like a mortally wounded... > Read more

Radiohead:Nude

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008: James McMurtry: Just Us Kids (Lightning Rod/Elite)

22 Dec 2008

The murky photo of a small, barroom audience on the inner sleeve of this brittle and typically dark album by singer-poet McMurtry might have included me. It looks like it was taken in the Continental Club in Austin where I caught him and his band the Heartless Bastards a couple of years ago playing their regular gig. Since his remarkable debut Too Long in the Wasteland at the opening of... > Read more

James McMurtry: Ruins of the Realm

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008: Hayes Carll: Trouble in Mind (Lost Highway)

22 Dec 2008

You'd think with strip malls, fast food franchises, saturation low-cost reality television and the widespread levelling out of mainstream culture that guys like Carll would have been ironed out of American life But he's one of those crinkles in the texture, an alt.country-cum-trad.country guy who is a little early Steve Earle and Joe Ely, and a bit of Basement Tapes Bob Dylan, but also very... > Read more

Hayes Carll: Girl Downtown

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008: Samuel Flynn Scott and Bunnies on Ponies: Straight Answer Machine (Loop)

22 Dec 2008    1

Sam Scott is the singer and main songwriter of the Phoenix Foundation (alongside Luke Buda) and wrote the music for the feature Eagle Vs Shark but this, his second solo album, sounds like a man thoroughly enjoying himself (in a somewhat serious way) out of the confines of both of those. As with the PF this is pop which has a light'n'loose feel (soft drugs I suspect) and a sense of... > Read more

SF Scott and BOP: Sodium Ions

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008: Van Morrison: Keep It Simple (Lost Highway)

22 Dec 2008

Another year and another Van album on yet another label . . . And with the reissue of his earlier albums drawing attention to great work like It's Too Late to Stop Now (read about it in Essential Elsewhere) it would hardly be surprising if this one was ignored by even longtime followers, many of whom might be picking up the remastered back-catalogue or one of the new greatest hits... > Read more

Van Morrison: No Thing

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008: Ryan Bingham: Mescalito (Lost Highway)

22 Dec 2008    1

We live and we learn -- and I have been living and relearning by repeat plays of this exceptional debut by someone called Ryan Bingham of whom I know nothing. And in a way, I'm grateful he has lived whatever he has in my place. The hard lessons he seems to have learned, I'm happy to just hear from this distance. I hear dark alt.country, brittle back-country, outsider art, folk-framed... > Read more

Ryan Bingham: Sunrise

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008: The Mountain Goats, Heretic Pride (4AD)

22 Dec 2008    3

Co-produced by John Vanderslice, the typically opaque lyrics by John Darnielle are given space and clarity so as to bewilder and bemuse you by turns. Not many people write songs with titles like Sax Rohmer #1, How to Embrace a Swamp Creature, Marduk T-Shirt Men's Room Incident and Michael Myers Resplendent. But here augmented by some discreetly dramatic strings and the small band, and with... > Read more

The Mountain Goats: Heretic Pride

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008: Drive-By Truckers: Brighter than Creation's Dark (New West/Elite)

22 Dec 2008    2

The Truckers inspire passionate loyalty for their Southern-framed country rock'n'roll and literate, sometimes provocative, lyrics. They often make you want to crack the top off a beer and kick back, but the words touch some deep and dark places as well. Here they open with a weary song about a guy at the gates of Heaven ("two daughters and a beautiful wife"), blast through... > Read more

Drive-By Truckers: Daddy Needs A Drink

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008: Moana and the Tribe: Wha (Black Pearl/Ode)

22 Dec 2008

Across her previous three albums Moana Maniapoto confirmed her status as one of New Zealand's most significant voices whose sound could just as comfortably incorporate politics and culture as seduce with her flowing lyrics in te reo and her astute ear for using the traditional within a contemporary context. This album might lack the obviously powerful and overt statements of material like... > Read more

Moana and the Tribe: Te Apo

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008: Emmylou Harris: All I Intended To Be (Warners)

22 Dec 2008    1

The crystalline quality of Emmylou Harris' voice is often so admired that people can look past that she is also a great interpreter of a lyric and has effortlessly brought traditional or familiar songs together with her originals.This time out she calls on kindred spirits (the McGarrigle sisters, Mike Auldridge, Buddy Miller) with her band which includes keyboard player Glenn D Hardin, drummer... > Read more

Emmylou Harris: Not Enough

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008: Coldplay: Viva la Vida or Death And All Her Friends (EMI)

22 Dec 2008    3

One advantage of not listening to commercial radio is that you don't start going off songs or bands through over-familiarity. Which might explain why I quite like this new album by a band which seems to annoy most right-thinking people and serious music writers.But I hear so little of them -- I rarely play the albums I have -- that this one sounds intelligent and like a band prepared to take a... > Read more

Coldplay: Yes

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008 Deerhunter: Microcastle (4AD)

22 Dec 2008    1

To be honest, this album by Bradford Cox and his Athens, Georgia band -- he's also the man behind his solo project Atlas Sounds, an album reviewed very favourably here some weeks ago -- sounds like a lot of other people, but what a lot of great other people: the Velvet Underground, the Church, the Pixies, the Cure, Mojave 3, Jesus and Mary Chain, early 90s shoe-gazer/paisley underground pop... > Read more

Deerhunter: Nothing Ever Happened

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008 Mavis Staples: Live. Hope at the Hideout (Anti)

22 Dec 2008    1

The last album by the great Mavis Staples, We'll Never Turn Back was picked as one of the best albums of 2007 at Elsewhere, and that was no sympathy vote for one of life's survivors who had grown up with the civil rights movement and has now lived long enough to see Obama heading for the White House. So when she sings "keep your eyes on the prize, hold on", Freedom Highway and... > Read more

Mavis Staples: This Little Light

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008 Johann Johannsson: Fordlandia (4AD)

22 Dec 2008    1

Part romantic and lyrical classical music, part minimalism of the early La Monte Young kind, and deftly orchestrated in the manner of albums on Eno's Obscure label of the Seventies (Gavin Bryars' Sinking of the Titanic comes to mind), this emotionally downbeat but eerily beautiful album is probably of as much appeal to those who like a bit of Mahler as anyone coming from Eno's ambient music end... > Read more

Johann Johannsson: The Rocket Builder

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008 Lucinda Williams: Little Honey (Universal)

22 Dec 2008

After her last, quite exceptional but largely melancholy album West (in part influenced by death in the family) it is almost as if Williams is here staking her claim again to some sassy rock'n'roll threads. The opener Real Love blazes off the disc and the closer is a cover of AC/DC's It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock'n'Roll) which, it must be said, she delivers in her... > Read more

Lucinda Williams: Little Rock Star

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008 TV on the Radio: Dear Science (4AD)

22 Dec 2008    5

There are very few bands in rock culture that you could describe as genuinely avant-garde, but this ambitious New York outfit certainly fits the job prescription: they are musically ambitous, possess a sense of history but also a 21st century grandeur in their sonic approach, and write on a big scale. It's enough to observe that there are elements of Prince and Bowie-funk in here as much as... > Read more

TV on the Radio: Golden Age

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008: Paul Weller: 22 Dreams (Shock)

22 Dec 2008

A couple of months ago I was invited to give a lecture to Auckland Uni music students about a contemporary songwriter of my choosing whose catalogue of work was interesting and worth studying.I picked Paul Weller on strength of this quote from him about his forthcoming album: "It takes in soul, rock'n'roll, there are some folky moments, some psych bits, a classical piece, some avant free... > Read more

Paul Weller: Echoes Around the Sun

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008: The Felice Brothers: The Felice Brothers (Shock)

22 Dec 2008

These three actual brothers (and a friend) weighed in with the Tonight at the Arizona which made the Best of Elsewhere 2007 list and turned up as many a critic's favourite Americana album.This long-awaited sequel follows an interim album sold at gigs, and a few of those songs are now available on this self-titled album (and some other tracks were, confusingly, recorded before their debut... > Read more

Felice Brothers: Murder by Mistletoe

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008 Willard Grant Conspiracy: Pilgrim Road (Southbound)

22 Dec 2008    1

For some people the radar-avoiding WGC are like an alt.country version of the late and lamented Australian band the Go-Betweens. Not for any similarity in sound, but in that if you discovered the songwriting skills early you tended to follow the central members' every move (solo or with the band).WGC has largely been the vehicle of Robert Fisher with now-departed Paul Austin and the 2004... > Read more

Willard Grant Conspiracy: Malpensa

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008 Bond Street Bridge: The Mapmaker's Art (Monkey Records)

22 Dec 2008

Opening with an arresting, one minute challenge of scraped and stabbing violin you could be forgiven for thinking the one-man band of Sam Prebble who is Bond Street Bridge is being beamed at you from the Contemporary Classical department. It’ll certainly grip you, as will dark alt.folk drone Black Market Soul Transplant which follows (“the devil got me drunk . . .  woke up... > Read more

Bond Street Bridge: Rain