Originally published on Tue February 10, 2015 2:18 pm
Two stretched concepts made the rock 'n' roll coming out of Sun Studios in the 1950s unlike other music of its kind: time and space. In a shabby little room near downtown Memphis, Sam Phillips gave the men and kids he recorded all the room in the world. "Spontaneity" was Phillips' mantra, which was particularly potent for the youngest Sun cats.
Originally published on Tue February 17, 2015 9:41 am
What does it take for a work of art to become an intervention? In music, any reinterpretation alters the original, if only because different fingerprints touch it. But certain lineages — folk music, for example — are built on the bones of those retellings. Whoever owns a song for a period of time connects it to her lived experience and the world in which she lives, and it changes. It might also change the world, or a small part of it.
Originally published on Wed January 21, 2015 11:58 am
The songs of Elliott Smith are widely revered — especially by those who came of age in the '90s — but a new generation of listeners is only beginning to discover him. Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith is likely to expose new fans to the great singer-songwriter. Smith released five albums in his lifetime and died in 2003 from two stab wounds to the chest; he'd left a suicide note. His songs, which often dealt with depression and desperation, were beautiful and frequently quiet.
Originally published on Sun November 16, 2014 8:59 pm
Damien Rice's creative ambition has always outstripped his personal ambition: The Irish singer-songwriter's 2002 debut O yielded many lavish orchestral flourishes, and even a foray into opera near the end, but Rice himself always seemed a reluctant star. After 2006's 9, he quietly retreated from the public eye and relocated to Iceland, barely popping up publicly since, so the arrival of these eight new songs comes as a welcome and periodically thrilling surprise.
Originally published on Wed November 19, 2014 10:36 am
It's rare that a record lays out a mission statement as efficiently as the new supergroup Thompson does in the first 60 seconds of "Family." Here's Teddy Thompson, singing about the perils of being surrounded by his particular relatives:
My father is one of the greats to ever step on a stage
My mother has the most beautiful voice in the world
Originally published on Wed November 19, 2014 10:34 am
For a record about journeying deep inside the darkest recesses of the mind, there's nothing introverted about the Cleveland duo Mr. Gnome's new album, The Heart Of A Dark Star. Named for an evocative phrase in a Neil Gaiman book, The Heart Of A Dark Star is a bold and blustery hurricane of guitars, organs and voices, all swirling around in the night air.
Originally published on Wed November 19, 2014 10:33 am
Bryan Ferry rolls back the years with Avonmore, an album with eight original songs that recall his classic mid-'70s albums with Roxy Music, as well as two covers that are by themselves worth the price of admission.
Originally published on Wed October 8, 2014 9:28 am
This is not Dueling Banjos: The Married Couple Edition. You won't find the careening energy of the mano-a-mano from the Deliverance soundtrack, or of the Flatt and Scruggs classic "Foggy Mountain Breakdown." Outbreaks of dazzling, speed-demon technique are few.
Originally published on Wed September 24, 2014 10:38 am
Vermont native King Tuff, a.k.a. Kyle Thomas, has been prowling the corners of the D.I.Y. scene for years, both in this solo guise and as a member of several vastly different acts: the freak-folk outfit Feathers, the wunderkind pop band Happy Birthday, the doom-metal burner Witch. But until Black Moon Spell, he hadn't really pushed his persona so far in a single direction. On his third full-length album, Thomas re-brands himself as some sort of demonic teenager, out for kicks, laughs, and maybe a little mailbox baseball, as opposed to bloodshed and the apocalypse.
Originally published on Wed September 24, 2014 10:39 am
A clue about the scruffy aesthetic of Sukierae arrives at the 2:27 mark of "World Away," one of 20 (!) songs on the first family-band album from Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. Until this point, the tune — a variation on the Bo Diddley beat strummed on acoustic guitar, with Tweedy's sleepy voice distantly implying a blues cadence — has been fairly straightforward.