iron and wine

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Wilco; Sky Blue Sky (Nonesuch) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Wilco; Sky Blue Sky (Nonesuch) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

The career trajectory of Wilco, helmed by Jeff Tweedy, has been fascinating to follow, if not always easy for many. From alt.country through to ambitious and complex pop in the late 90s, they then made the "Radiohead leap" with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in 2002 where the experimentation, noise factor and angularity of ther material was...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007 Iron and Wine: The Shepherd's Dog (SunPop/Rhythmethod)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007 Iron and Wine: The Shepherd's Dog (SunPop/Rhythmethod)

Sam Beam -- who is Iron and Wine -- really sounds like he has hits his stride with this exceptional, engaging and folkadelic outing, and he's achieved that by just continuing on the same, mildly eccentric and determined path as he has taken on his previous albums and EPs. This time however the songs sound more full and fully formed, the array...

The Felice Brothers; Tonight at the Arizona (Shock) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

The Felice Brothers; Tonight at the Arizona (Shock) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Although perhaps too referencing of Dylan and the Band holed up in the basement of the Big Pink, that doesn't mean this shakily delivered collection of Americana from these three brothers and a bassist isn't without considerable charm and lowkey impact. And nope, there is no problem with your stereo during Hey Hey Revolver, that drop-out is...

Bonnie Prince Billy: Is it the Sea? (BBC)

Bonnie Prince Billy: Is it the Sea? (BBC)

Recorded live in Edinburgh before the release of his last album Lie Down in the Light (which as noted here was a slightly more upbeat if not uptempo outing for this prince of dark places) this is an exceptional release in the ever-expanding Billy (aka Will Oldham) canon. With a small band of folk-locals Harem Scarem and guest voclaist Alex...

Iron and Wine: Around the Well (SubPop/Rhythmethod)

Iron and Wine: Around the Well (SubPop/Rhythmethod)

As a nom de disque/stage name Iron and Wine seems as inappropriate and unhelpful as a product description as Mojave 3. Don't know about you but Iron and Wine sounds a bit on the metal side of mayhem to me. Of course Sam Beam who is Iron and Wine is anything but noisy, he's one of those quiet and considered and sometime eccentric...

The Cave Singers: Welcome Joy (Matador)

The Cave Singers: Welcome Joy (Matador)

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...

Richmond Fontaine: The Fitzgerald (Southbound)

Richmond Fontaine: The Fitzgerald (Southbound)

Richmond Fontaine come with big advance notices: the indie Americana band from Portland broke big with their rowdy Post to Wire album two years ago, which drew favourable comparisons with the Replacements, but for their follow-up, The Fitzgerald, they have turned the volume way down. Written by guitarist Willy Vlautin while living at...

William Fitzsimmons: The Sparrow and the Crow (Inertia)

William Fitzsimmons: The Sparrow and the Crow (Inertia)

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...

Noah and the Whale: The First Days of Spring (Shock)

Noah and the Whale: The First Days of Spring (Shock)

Beauty is not a quality that popular music (ie pop, rock, r'n'b, indie-rock or whatever) places much store in: yet from the Velvet Underground through Mazzy Star and the early Cowboy Junkies to the Fleet Foxes, or from Eno to the landscape of guitars in Explosions in the Sky, there has been beauty aplenty. Beauty need not be sentimental...

The Haints of Dean Hall: Sleeper (Arch Hill)

The Haints of Dean Hall: Sleeper (Arch Hill)

The mystery continues as this poetic, dark alt.country outfit once more -- as on their impressive self-titled debut album -- explore understated, musically and emotionally stark songs which sometimes evoke empty rooms in spider-webbed old houses and an emotional ennui. But although they suggest a more ancient time and place these are very...

Kath Bloom: Thin Thin Line (Caldo Verde)

Kath Bloom: Thin Thin Line (Caldo Verde)

Although this wobbly-voiced American folkie has been around since the late Seventies I confess I have never heard/heard of her. On a first hearing I can't say I think I missed much: vocally she comes off like a shaky-voiced version of Daniel Johnston and Yoko Ono (when Ono gets in "ballad" mode). Notes are there but sometimes a...

Bonnie Prince Billy and The Cairo Gang: The Wonder Show of the World (Palace)

Bonnie Prince Billy and The Cairo Gang: The Wonder Show of the World (Palace)

My guess is that because Bonnie Prince Billy aka Will Oldham aka Palace aka Palace Brothers etc has done so many albums that, like Woody Allen movies and local buses, you can afford to miss one because another will be along soon. This low-key, mostly acoustic outing framed by Neil Young-styled folk and Billy's default position of analytical...

The Album Leaf: A Chorus of Storytellers (SubPop)

The Album Leaf: A Chorus of Storytellers (SubPop)

This quiet, mostly instrumental and discreetly seductive album by a band with a very confusing name has been slipping back into the player quite a lot recently -- and I suspect it came out a few months ago, but I've only belatedly discovered it. The Album Leaf has been the on-going project of the San Diego-based songwriter Jimmy LaValle whose...

Mark Eitzel, Klamath (101/Southbound)

Mark Eitzel, Klamath (101/Southbound)

Eitzel was the former frontman for the very wonderful but poorly named American Music Club (probably still is, I think they have reformed) but this solo album dates from a retreat to a cabin (around Klamath Falls in central Oregon I guess) a year or so ago. As befits it origins this is very intimate music -- although far from the...

Renee-Louise Carafice: I Will Raise a Bird Army (Bird Army)

Renee-Louise Carafice: I Will Raise a Bird Army (Bird Army)

There is no doubt life has been difficult for Renee-Louise Carafice, her previous album (here) was born out of clinical depression and time in an institution . . .  and this one addresses the break-up of a relationship (which she concedes was always flawed) in chilly Chicago. Art wrought out of such personal crises can often be...

Moondoggies: Tidelands (Hardly Art)

Moondoggies: Tidelands (Hardly Art)

Their name might not inspire much confidence -- the sort of band name 12-year olds think up -- but this rootsy, alt.country and indie-rock outfit from Seattle on a SubPop imprint label have a mainline connection to the same core of music (Neil Young, the Band) as informs the Felice Brothers, early Wilco and Richmond Fontaine. They certainly...

The Duke and The King: Long Live the Duke and The King (Shock)

The Duke and The King: Long Live the Duke and The King (Shock)

Hilarious. If there's another Austin Power movie and our spy gets dropped into the early Seventies in California -- the time of all those self-centred, earnest singer-songwriters in the Canyon -- then the formerly interesting The Duke and The King already have a few songs here which sound like pitch-perfect parodies of the style. Okay,...

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

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

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...

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

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

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...

The Low Anthem: Smart Flesh (Nonesuch)

The Low Anthem: Smart Flesh (Nonesuch)

Sin and death and guilt; archaisms like "apothecary", "Gatling gun" and "player piano"; harmonica, pump organ, violin, saw and cello; whiskey and gin; recorded in a freezing cold room in winter . . . all the right elements would seem to be in place for more rustic music grounded in an older America from educated...

Bill Callahan: Apocalypse (Drag City)

Bill Callahan: Apocalypse (Drag City)

After his last exceptional album Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle (a Best of Elsewhere 2009 album) it was hard to imagine how this Americana singer-songwriter -- who previously recorded as Smog -- could remain on the margins of mainstream acceptance. That the album demanded, but also commanded, attention might just have put him once more...

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