Music at Elsewhere

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The Phoenix Foundation: Happy Ending (Flying Nun) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

22 Oct 2007  |  1 min read

In a cover so cheap-looking and unpromising that it reminds me of an intermediate school kid's doodle comes one of the best New Zealand albums of the year. Let's hope that godawful "artwork" doesn't put off any prospective buyers because if it does they will be missing one of the most nuanced, textured, seductively melodic and vibrant albums that Flying Nun has released in a very... > Read more

The Phoenix Foundation: Pure Joy

Zbigniew Preisner: Silence, Night and Dreams (EMI)

22 Oct 2007  |  <1 min read

Composer Preisner is best known for his dramatic soundtrack work -- but this gentle exploration of Biblical texts owes more to austere and evocative meditative music, which makes that album title utterly apt. The title track and a couple of others feature the pure and unwavering vocals of the young soprano Tom Cully from Libera (who looks about 12), but elsewhere it is Teresa Salgueiro from... > Read more

Zbigniew Preisner: To Love

Arthur and Yu: In Camera (Stomp)

21 Oct 2007  |  <1 min read

On a first hearing I thought this would have been the album that Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood might have made if Nancy had been more like Elizabeth Montgomery in Bewitched and Lee more like Karl Wallinger from World Party. Sort of pop but not, as it were. There is a dreamy and disconcerting quality to much of this pairing of Seattle's Grant Olsen and Sonya Westcott, but the seductive... > Read more

Arthur and Yu: 1000 Words

Jenny Owen Youngs: Batten the Hatches (Shock)

21 Oct 2007  |  <1 min read

This album has floated to the top of the pile quite frequently in the past three months and it has only been distractions which have meant it hasn't made an appearance here earlier. Let's rectify that oversight and tell you what prompted it: a line I saw somewhere which said that if KT Tunstall could be big why not this woman. Fair point. Youngs is an acoustic-framed rocker with... > Read more

Jenny Owen Youngs: Fuck Was I

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

21 Oct 2007  |  <1 min read

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 where lightning hit their cheap studio and the... > Read more

The Felice Brothers: Hey Hey Revolver

Elvis Costello: My Aim Is True, Deluxe Edition (Universal)

21 Oct 2007  |  <1 min read

Elvis had a fair run here on Elsewhere when the recent reissue of his first 11 albums prompted a consideration of his quite remarkable career (see tag). But this Deluxe double disc edition of his debut album adds extra texture to that exceptional album with its touchstones in Phil Spector, country-rock, beat pop, Chuck Berry-meets-Dylan and so on. Here is the original album on the first... > Read more

Elvis Costello and the Attractions: Stranger in the House (out-take)

John Fogerty: Revival (Fantasy)

19 Oct 2007  |  1 min read

Now back on his original label after decades of litigation, animosity and a refusal to play the Creedence Clearwater Revival hits that made his repuation, Fogerty sounds like a man at peace with himself -- but as angry as ever about his country being involved in yet another foreign war. On this album which doesn't stray far from that winning CCR template of short, sharp swamp-rock and... > Read more

John Fogerty: I Can't Take It No More

Johnny Devlin: How Would Ya Be (Ode)

19 Oct 2007  |  1 min read

I was too young to be swept up in the fervour surrounding Johnny Devlin, New Zealand's first shirt-rippin' stage-ragin' rock'n'roll star. But my older sister certainly had a Devlin EP -- sponsored by Coca-Cola as I recall -- which I later poured over. When I think about it though my sister was more into beatnik cool in the late 50s than rock'n'roll, so maybe it was my parents who had the... > Read more

Johnny Devlin: Nervous Wreck

Trip to the Moon: Welcome to the Big Room (Ode)

18 Oct 2007  |  <1 min read

This astral-ambient and very trippy outfit from Auckland record far too infrequently for my liking, and this seductive offering is further evidence of the singular path they have been travelling on: deliciously textured music which refers to space-flight jazz and the most refined aspects of 70s prog-rock, but is never over-indulgent. Trip are multi-instrumentalists Trevor Reekie and Tom... > Read more

Trip to the Moon: Long Lost Days

Beirut; The Flying Club Cup BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

18 Oct 2007  |  <1 min read

Ambitious and slightly eccentric pop music doesn't come much more ambitious and eccentric as this, the second album by Zach Condon (aka Beirut), an American with a European sensibility whose musical reach encompasses indie Anglopop, French chanson, nods to Scott Walker, hints of Spanish or mariachi music, snippets of conversations, swooning choruses, quasi-choral passages . . . There is an... > Read more

Beirut: Cliquot

Levon Helm: Dirt Farmer (Vanguard) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

18 Oct 2007  |  1 min read

If anyone has won the right to sings songs of life on hard scrabble farms it is Levon Helm, the former drummer/singer/mandolin player in the Band who grew up on a cotton farm near a town called Turkey Scratch in Arkansas. His group -- called for a time Levon and the Hawks -- backed Ronnie Hawkins, linked up with Bob Dylan and became simply The Band. Many consider Helm the authentic voice... > Read more

Levon Helm: The Mountain

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss; Raising Sand (Rounder) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

18 Oct 2007  |  <1 min read  |  1

From what seems a most unlikely pairing -- the former Led Zepp frontman and the "new bluegrass" singer/fiddle player -- comes one of the best albums of the year: an often eerie folk-framed collection in which the duo engage the heart of songs by Townes Van Zandt (the other-world sound of Nothing), Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan (Trampled Rose), the Everly Brothers (Gone Gone Gone),... > Read more

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss: PLease Read the Letter

Various: A Tribute to Fats Domino (Tipitina's/Shock)

17 Oct 2007  |  1 min read

In the days after Hurricane Katrina it was believed that this great New Orleans r'n'b singer had been washed away. Fortunately he had been rescued although his home, like much of that wonderful city, had suffered extreme damage. The interesting thing about the rumours of his death was the sudden recognition of his talent in the wider world: he had been one of the earliest influences on... > Read more

Big Chief Monk Boudreaux with Galactic: So Long

Various Artists: Sowing the Seeds (Appleseed/Elite)

16 Oct 2007  |  <1 min read

This moving and sometimes inspiring double-disc celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Appleseed label which is a home to various socio-political folkies such as Pete Seeger, Tom Paxton and others. But for this, their first sampler, they have also invited in some guests such as Bruce Springsteen and Donovan -- and had Seeger record some excellent new material, notably the opener, a brief... > Read more

Tommy Sands, Pete Seeger, Vedran Smailovic: Music of Healing

Tunng: Good Arrows (Full Time Hobby)

29 Sep 2007  |  <1 min read

This Anglofolk-cum-indie altpop outfit were a previous Elsewhere pick with their beguiling and sometimes baffling Comments of the Inner Chorus. At time they sound like the Incredible String Band without the fey folksiness, at others like the Beta Band (a good thing) or the Penguin Cafe Orchestra, or evoke hot Hawaiian beaches beside a dark English forest, or seduce you with a gorgeous melody... > Read more

Tunng: Bricks

Tim Gane and Sean O'Hagan: La Vie d'Artiste (Too Pure)

29 Sep 2007  |  <1 min read

In the long and ever-changing list of "favourite bands" two names come up for me consistently, Stereolab and the criminally ignored High Llamas whose Sean O'Hagan was doing Brian Wilson better than Wilson was for over a decade. Soundtracks in the absence of seeing or knowing much about the movie can be difficult affairs, but with Stereolab's Gane and O'Hagan penning the music for... > Read more

Tim Gane and Sean O'Hagan: Yoko Johnson

Various: Wounded Heart of America; Tom Russell Songs (Hightone)

29 Sep 2007  |  <1 min read

Some weeks ago I was invited to give a talk about some of my favourite music to a group of people in someone's home. It was a very pleasant night and the first few things I played were either by the American singer-songwriter Tom Russell or his songs sung by others (notably Joe Ely covering the dramatic Gallo Del Cielo which I said I could envision as a film by John Huston). Russell is... > Read more

Tom Russell: Who's Gonna Build Your Wall?

Various: Bowiemania (Naive)

29 Sep 2007  |  <1 min read

Compiled by the French arranger/sound artist Beatrice Ardisson, this wayward collection of people covering Bowie songs is as enjoyable as it is uneven: but even the weaker moments hold considerable appeal. They are hardly household names here (Microsillion, Rhonda Harris, Los Chicros) but some are so engaging you might want to hear more from them (Medi and the Medicine Show's take on Rebel... > Read more

Yann Tierson and the Divine Comedy: Life on Mars

Bettye LaVette and Drive-By Truckers: The Scene of the Crime (Anti) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

29 Sep 2007  |  <1 min read

This is an unexpected pairing: soul-singer LaVette with alt-country rockers Drive-By Truckers recording in Muscle Shoals in Alabama. A marriage made in heaven (or a somewhat hotter place) as it turns out: the band are edgy or supportive and nudge LaVette (who needs little prompting it must be said) through a collection of gritty songs which either jump out of the speakers or drag you into... > Read more

Bettye LaVette and Drive-By Truckers: I Still Want to be Your Baby

Patti Smith: Twelve

17 Sep 2007  |  <1 min read

Even in Smith's often unpredictable career this is unexpected: a covers album which includes Tears For Fears' Everybody Wants to Rule The World? Its very straight treatment is equally surprising. You'd expect her to tear through it with righteous indignation but no, she delivers it as the bouncy pop ballad it always was. But better is elsewhere: her drawling treatment of... > Read more