Music at Elsewhere

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The Duke and the King: Nothing Good Can Stay (Shock)

14 Sep 2009    3

The singer-songwriter behind this gorgeously tuneful, lyrically probing debut is Simone Felice of the terrific Felice Brothers, two times Best of Elsewhere artists (2007, 2008) for their amalgam of ragged-but-right country which owed huge debts to the early Band and country-styled Bob Dylan, but who put their own stamp on proceedings. The songwriter/drummer has left the band and teamed up... > Read more

The Duke and the King: One More American Song

Jesse Harris: Watching the Sky (Inertia)

13 Sep 2009

The news that Norah Jones has co-written a song with with Ryan Adams for her forthcoming album The Fall (due in November) is interesting: will he move in her direction or she to him? And which her, or which him? Many of the other tracks are Jones' own work (no bad thing) or with longtime partner Jesse Harris who here delivers up a polished, almost easy listening line of melancholy melodies... > Read more

Jesse Harris: Looking Back

Yim Yames: Tribute to (Rough Trade)

13 Sep 2009

Yim Yames is actually Jim James from My Morning Jacket (no, don't ask me why) and these six songs were actually recorded in 2001, a few days after George Harrison's death as a tribute to a man whose life he said was "a prime example of the healing powers of music". There have been bigger and more self-conscious tributes to Harrison, but none more heartfelt or so emotionally direct... > Read more

Yim Yames: Ballad of Sir Frank Crisp (Let it Roll)

Kieran Kane: Somewhere Beyond the Roses (Shock)

13 Sep 2009

If nothing else, and there is a lot of "else" here, the instrumentation on this new album by the Nashville singer-songwriter Kane would be pretty arresting: drums, electric guitar, banjo and baritone sax, the latter from Deanna Varragona who has played with Lambcop. It makes for a sound which can be sprightly (the banjo) but also full of dark corners (that deep sax), and that... > Read more

Kieran Kane: Why Can't You?

Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs: Under the Covers Vol 2 (Shock)

7 Sep 2009    2

The previous album by this hugely underrated power pop/rock singer songwriter and the former Bangle was a snapshot of their favourite Sixties songs (by the Beatles, Dylan, Neil Young, Stone Ponies, Who and so on) under the banner of Sid'n'Susie. Here they undertake the diversity of the Seventies which means power pop (a rather mundane version of the Raspberries Go All the Way which lacks... > Read more

Matthew Sweet, Susanna Hoffs: Beware of Darkness (by George Harrison, Dhani Harrison on guitar

Tahuna Breaks: Black Brown and White (Chocolate)

7 Sep 2009    1

I'd be astonished if Tahuna Breaks don't have hugely successful concerts on their current tour, and sell truckloads of this album -- because they tick every stylistic box that New Zealand audiences seem to like: you want James Brown-styled soul-funk (you've got it on Giddy Up which isn't the Katchafire song, and Funky Mama), or you want light lovers rock (here on Only You)? There is the... > Read more

Tahuna Breaks: Crisis Situation

Family Cactus: Come Howling (Sony)

6 Sep 2009

Given that members of this seven piece have connections with excellent New Zealand bands such as the Brunettes, the Nudie Suits, Grand Prix, Good Laika and others, you'd think this album would have made quite a splash. You'd also think that some competing egos would have been apparent, but this coherent and quietly compelling album works through understatement as much the dramatic (where... > Read more

Family Cactus: In Transit

Marianne Dissard: L'entredeux (TEM/Border)

6 Sep 2009

Given that this album was produced by Calexico's Joey Burns (who also wrote the music) this one comes as something of a surprise: you might have anticipated some kind of alt.Americana. There is something of that in the music and arrangements in places, but Dissard vocals (all in French) have that whispered, intimate, beguiling quality of the classic chanson singers. More engaged and engaging... > Read more

Marianne Dissard: Merci De Rien Du Tout

The Clean: Mister Pop (Arch Hill)

31 Aug 2009

There has often been a spiralling quasi-psychedelic quality to the Clean, but this time out the mood drops back into a more gentle, thought-provoking, marijuana-ambient sound which recalls moments from guitarist David Kilgour's solo albums. There is a lovely langour to many of these pieces, the long and rolling rhythms, the leisurely pacing and effortless forward momentum. There's a gentle... > Read more

The Clean: In the Dreamlife U Need a Rubber Soul

Louisiana Red: Back to the Black Bayou (Ruf/Yellow Eye)

31 Aug 2009

This seventysomething year old has earned to right to sing the blues: his father was lynched by the Klan back home in Alabama when he was boy; he was moved around staying with various relatives; played with John Lee Hooker for a while; has recorded for about as many blues labels as there are; lived in Europe for a while . . . He's accumulated a lot of life experiences. When the mood... > Read more

Louisiana Red: The Black Bayou

The Verlaines: Corporate Moronic (Dunedin Sound/Yellow Eye)

31 Aug 2009

The problem with writing songs which have a political intention or address social issues is that these complex matters cannot easily be reduced to lyrics, and so you end up with songs which are slogans (Power to the People) or full of posturing pomposity (the court calls U2). It's in the nature of a three or four minute song that everything comes off as headlines but no story. Graeme Downes... > Read more

The Verlaines: Tomorrow Without You

The War on Drugs: Wagonwheel Blues (Longtime Listener)

31 Aug 2009    3

Some music is purely functional: music in airports; massage music, Kiwi backyard-bbq reggae etc. This one by a US band I know nothing about is driving music -- annoying inner city stop-start or highway freedom -- and comes off in places like amphetamine-fuelled and wordy Dylan '65 (or more correctly, Butch Hancock when he was doing that style, if you get the reference). The singer has a... > Read more

The War on Drugs: Arms Like Boulders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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