Saturday, April 30, 2011

On the eve of MAYhem.

The sun sets on April, and the means one thing: it's the dawn of MAYhem. Our second annual celebration that pits release against release kicks off tomorrow. Over the next few weeks, look for six reviews that will ultimately dictate the final rankings.

So far, I've got my hands on half of the releases, and I'm hoping the other dominos will fall in the next week or so. The competition is stiff already, so the remaining three will have to bring the goods. Also, don't forget to vote on the poll before May 31.

Just a note: The new My Morning Jacket single, "Holding On to Black Metal", was released last week. It's oblique, a bit bizarre, and not particularly digestible as a single, but it could fit nicely in the flow of an album.

That's it! Let there be MAYhem...

Monday, April 25, 2011

April 23, 2011: Iron and Wine w/The Low Anthem

Iron and Wine
w/The Low Anthem
Trustees Theater (Savannah, GA)
April 23, 2011

In 2005, I saw Iron and Wine at the Music Farm here in Charleston. Sam Beam and crew were touring behind the Woman King EP, released earlier that year. Let's paint a picture of the band, circa 2005: Beam's basement project had blossomed into a six person ensemble, largely a pack of bearded minstrels who looked like luthiers. Musically, this was an era for the group when percussion on a track was a bold move. Sam was a reserved performer, saying little, gently chiding the audience for its chattiness, humoring a few clowns who felt the need to remind Sam via midsong holler that they'd gone to grade school with him up the highway in Chapin. The music was a recreation of what we'd heard on record thus far: whispered vocals over fingerpicked acoustic, brushed drums, mandolin clucks, and Sarah Beam's delicate harmonies. It was a treat to see the band, but the noisy barroom crowd swallowed up much of the sound.

In the six years since that night, it's been steady and thorough evolution for Iron and Wine. Their third LP, 2007's The Shepherd's Dog, introduced lush arrangements and experimental turns that made it abundantly clear the days of minimalistic basement folk were gone. In 2009, the band released Around the Well, a dual-disc collection that nicely charts the band's creative progression from one-man folk project to a full scale progressive Americana ensemble. This January, the band released its fourth LP proper, Kiss Each Other Clean. It stays the course of expansion, most notably in Beam's vocal approach: he shelves his pianissimo delivery for a rich tenor. The album is one of my favorites this year--and was more than enough incentive to check out his performance in Savannah last Saturday. I was eager to hear how Iron and Wine's 2011 vintage compared with 2005.

Upping the ante was the scheduled opening act: The Low Anthem, the Rhode Island folkees I finally discovered last year. Oh My God Charlie Darwin is a masterwork, and although their 2011 release Smart Flesh was only a mild satisfaction, they're an act I hold in high regard and was overjoyed to be catching.

My girlfriend, her sister and I arrived in Savannah early in the afternoon, affording us the opportunity to enjoy the city a bit. As a Charlestonian, I'm comfortable in walkable, tourist-heavy towns where Southern charm is liberally draped like Spanish moss on live oak branches. After a nice dinner, we found ourselves at the front entrance of the Johnny Mercer Theater--which was locked and unlit. I don't know how I managed this one, but we were at the wrong venue. Our smartphones confirmed the event was in fact at the Trustees Theater, a smaller venue about 10 blocks northwest of the Mercer.

A brisk walk later, we found ourselves inside the Trustees. Unfortunately, the Low Anthem was a few songs in when we found our fourth-row seats, but by my estimation we still caught 80% of the set. The quartet is helmed by Ben Knox Miller, who led the group in a handful of tunes from Smart Flesh, including the bounding rocker "Boeing 737". The best moment was the closer, "This God Damn House" from 2007's What the Crow Brings. Before the song, Miller instructed us to wait for his cue, then call the person in the next seat, turn the phones on speaker and hold them face to face. Because of the theater's audio configuration, it created a symphony of cricket-like feedback that complemented the ballad's final strains. During the set, I noticed how quiet the audience was, which allowed to us to appreciate the band's antique ballads, like "Matter of Time" and "Burn". I wonder if the band is always so lucky--I'd imagine their set would suffer for restless crowds.

The Low Anthem

When the headliners took the stage, I couldn't help but compare this Sam Beam to the man I watched six years ago. Everything was different--except his trademark beard, of course. But before, he wore jeans and a loose button-down. Here, he sported a snappy suit and his hair was brushed back in a wavy bouffant, like some Appalachian playboy. It was also evident from the onset that this was a far more personable, confident Sam Beam. Everything about him was charismatic. His stage presence was downright groovy. He bantered--a lot. Every few songs he'd take a break to gab with the audience. He responded to every comment, holler and yelp--I had to restrain myself from shouting that I'd been in his hometown the previous weekend. I don't doubt that he would have responded. His demeanor was mostly humble and playful, but a moment of hilarity ensued when a girl howled, "You're hot!" to which he muttered, "Well, no shit."

Oh yeah, and he played music. The set was comprised of 19 songs from each of the band's four albums and two EPs, drawing most heavily from Kiss Each Other Clean and Our Endless Numbered Days. Most of the older numbers were put through the ringer, either tastefully expanded or given a complete overhaul. Song of the night honors go to "Freedom Hangs Like Heaven", the galloping Woman King EP standout, wherein three tightly-wound verses of just Sam and Sarah exploded into a full-band outro. The new material was excellent, especially "Walking Far From Home". The audience remained seated most of the gig (Beam ribbed us for staying seated at one point, mimicking an awkward shift-in-your-seat dance) but main set closer "Tree By the River" was what got everyone up and dancing--in its short existence, the song's already a bona fide crowdpleaser. Unfortunately we didn't get "Glad Man Singing" or "Rabbit Will Run", my two favorites from the new album.

As for the old-school stuff, "Lion's Mane" featured little more adornment than faint horn textures, which was well-suited for such an understated tune. "Cinder and Smoke", "Free Until They Cut Me Down", and "Fever Dream" were done justice, not unrecognizable from their Our Endless Numbered Days form. "Sodom South Georgia" was generously restructured, and could have benefited from a more faithful interpretation. I'll admit to a bit of bias here, since I think the original is one of those rare songs that is completely without flaw. I was slightly caught off guard by the lack of Shepherd's Dog material. We heard only "House By the Sea" in the main set, and then the band encored with "Wolves (Song of the Shepherd's Dog)". The latter featured an extended ambient midsection that might have taken a few minutes to win over the crowd, but had us all spellbound by the time the band kicked back in. When the final notes faded, the place was electric. Anyone who walked in harboring even a vague dissatisfaction with the band's recent direction most assuredly left with a new appreciation of Iron and Wine.

It's interesting to observe the effects of creative freedom has on an artist's progression, for better or for worse. Sam Beam's Iron and Wine project was borne out of a limited environment, and the initial product--its aesthetic--was indicative of that. But as his limitations dissolved, the results expanded. Today's Iron and Wine is unrecognizable in so many ways: the band, the music, the live show, and the list goes on. Not that it matters; Iron and Wine was never the name of a band in the first place. It was a project, an endeavor, and every phase of that endeavor is crucial to Saturday night's experience. Without the lo-fi whisper-folk of Creek Drank the Cradle, we don't get the lush, technicolor sounds of Kiss Each Other Clean. As I've said before, any time a band takes on a larger audience, they are tasked with expanding, refining, and even reapproaching their sound. Perhaps no band embodies this challenge more than Iron and Wine. How does an act that started out recording minimalist folk in a basement translate to theaters and festival stages? Over the course of Saturday night's staggering set, we got the answer.

As usual, setlist and crappy iPhone photography:

Me and Lazarus
God Made the Automobile 
Freedom Hangs Like Heaven 
Summer in Savannah 
The Sea & the Rhythm 
Sunset Soon Forgotten 
Walking Far From Home 
Cinder and Smoke 
Lion's Mane 
Big Burned Hand 
Half Moon 
Swans and the Swimming 
Free Until They Cut Me Down 
Sodom, South Georgia 
House by the Sea 
Woman King 
Fever Dream 
Tree by the River 

Wolves (Song of the Shepherd's Dog)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Weekly Whathaveyou - Friday, April 22, 2011

Various and Sundry Goings On About Music:
  • By now you should know that Wilco comes first here at HSW. To wit: exciting news from Chicago, as the band has announced a new single called "I Might", and it'll drop in July. What's more, Jeff Tweedy chatted with Spin Magazine about the new Wilco album. Tentatively titled Get Well Soon Everybody, the recording process is "pretty far along" according to Tweedy. We could hear the album as soon as September. A few things he said got me giddy, especially his categorization of the sound as either experimental-leaning rock or cinematic country. But he also called it "obnoxious...pop" and admits to trying a falsetto at some point...uh. "Obnoxious pop" is a good way to describe the worst parts of Wilco (The Album). Regardless, I'm excited to hear something new, and more importantly, catch a few more shows along the way.
  • Remember last week when Bon Iver posted a mysterious video? He didn't let the tease linger, as the announcement came this week. It's out in June, it's self-titled, and it's got a lot of folks excited. Looking very much forward to this one.
  • Check out this fascinating article about whale pop-songs. That's right, not even whales are exempt from following musical trends. Question: Has some hipsterfuck Brooklyn laptop band mashed up whalesongs yet? It's a matter of time.
  • Sad, sad news to report: only a few weeks after the release of their excellent new album, Nine Types of Light, TV On the Radio announced the passing of bassist Gerard Smith. It was only a couple of months ago when the band informed us that he was battling lung cancer. RIP to Gerard.
  • Show this weekend: Iron & Wine and The Low Anthem in Savannah. Last time I saw Iron & Wine was 2005, and a little-known band without a proper LP opened. They're doing OK now though.
  • Don't forget to vote in the poll. And follow us on Twitter.
Recent Listening:
  • Felice Brothers - Celebration, Florida
  • Vampire Weekend - Contra
  • TV On the Radio - Nine Types of Light
  • The Hold Steady - Almost Killed Me
  • Weezer - Pinkerton
Upcoming Releases of Import:
  • Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues (May 3)
  • Okkervil River - I Am Very Far (May 10)
  • Felice Brothers - Celebration, Florida (May 10)
  • Man Man - Life Fantastic (May 10)
  • Death Cab for Cutie - Codes and Keys (May 31)
  • My Morning Jacket - Circuital (May 31)
  • Bon Iver - Bon Iver (June '11)
My Upcoming Concert Schedule:
  • Iron and Wine w/Low Anthem (Savannah, April 23)
  • The Fleet Foxes (Atlanta, May 14)
A Tube For You:
Last night, Ryan Adams unexpectedly opened for Emmylou Harris. I've backed off of my RA fanboyism int he past few years, but this version of "Oh My Sweet Carolina" sounds nothing short of golden age Ryan--the vocals sound like they were peeled right off of Heartbreaker. Emmylou's background vocals don't hurt, either.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

11 Best "High" Tracks

As mentioned previously, the next two months will feature condensed 11 Best features. With all this MAYhem going on, I won't have the time to do a full 5-post swing.

Yesterday was 4/20, better known as National Pot Smokers Day. So let's pull on our Bolivian tassel hats, slap a NORML button on our ponchos, and celebrate some songs that make liberal use of the word "high":
11. "High Enough" - Damn Yankees: Kick it off with a little 80's cheese featuring a gum-smacking Nuge. Seriously, what was the sunglasses budget for this video?
10. "Head Held High" - Velvet Underground: I'm not the biggest VU fan, but this song sits right with me.
9. "High Fashion Queen" - The Flying Burrito Brothers: The word "high" can mean so many things. Was Gram and crew really talking about a fashionable woman who was baked? Probably not, but I certainly wouldn't put it past a guy who wore this suit.
8. "There's a Higher Power" - The Louvin Brothers: Again, same word, different meanings. But Ira Louvin was no saint. The though of a veiled drug reference on a gospel folk record is entertaining.
7. "High Water" - Uncle Tupelo: A classic Farrar ballad, it's probably one of the most underrated songs on Anodyne. Also, I feel like there's a joke about a water bong here. I'll let you explore that one on your own.
6. "High and Dry" - Radiohead: One of the band's earlier gems, it boasts a timeless acoustic run. Also rivals Damn Yankees for the highest-pitch "high".
5. "Mine's Not a High Horse" - The Shins: I think we're all in agreement that the thought of a horse being high is hilarious. Great song, by the way--and one that should have been included in February's 11 Best Second Songs.
4. "Weed Party" - Band of Horses: The word "high" never actually appears in this song. Still, I shouldn't have to qualify it. Yee-haw!
3. "To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)" - Ryan Adams: This one was the wild card a few months back, but any song that features the line "Lord, I got high!" sung at full volume has earned its place here.
2. "I Must Be High" - Wilco: The first Wilco song on the first Wilco album, it seems downright quaint compared to later-era complexity. Still, only a true Wilco fan can absorb the final strains of "Reservations", then turn around and blast A.M.
1. "Highly Suspicious" - My Morning Jacket: Why not give top honors to the song that sounds like it was written on drugs? Love it or hate it, after hearing it once you won't forget it.
Made it through the whole list without calling upon any jam bands! Next time you spark up, feel free to cue any of these for some musical accompaniment ranging from subtle to intentional. Not that you need an excuse to listen to Damn Yankees.

Until next month!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Weekly Whathaveyou - Friday, April 15, 2011

Various and Sundry Goings On About Music:
  • The new Cass McCombs album, WIT'S END, dropped this week. I was pretty pumped for this one; it warrants excitement any time a previous HSW Album of the Year winner preps a new release. As a matter of fact, three of them have or will this year--Local Natives would have to release a quick follow-up to make it 4/4. Anyway, could Cass build off Catacombs? It's with a sobering sigh that my thumb swivels floorward. It's not a musically bad album. It's not embarrassing, and there's not a marked drop-off in quality. The best word I can use to describe the album is grueling. Eight songs, brooding and sparse, that move at the pace of thick sap oozing down a sycamore trunk. I imagine Cass's efforts were deliberate--he's never been in a hurry. There are some nice moments--most notably the album opener, "County Line"--but overall, it isn't engaging enough. It makes the Red House Painters sound like speed metal.
  • The last WWHY alleged that two MAYhem contenders had seen the light of day. For some reason, I was thinking TV On the Radio's Nine Types of Light was a May release. It isn't. But the new Felice Brothers is out there. I won't give too much away, but between The Fleet Foxes and the Felice Brothers, the other four contenders are going to need to bring the goods if they want to compete.
  • Bon Iver has posted a mysterious video, featuring what seems to be 50 seconds of a new song over footage of someone slow-panning over a painting. Expert assessment: the song sounds a lot like Bon Iver.
  • A first for me: last night, I skipped a show I'd purchased a ticket for. It was the Drive-By Truckers--which means I still haven't seen them. My excuse? A busy travel weekend ahead meant I coveted a free Thursday night that would allow me to pack, organize, and get to bed on the early side. Plus, I left my ticket at work. There are two conclusions I can draw from this: First, I'm lazy and aging. But perhaps more importantly, the Truckers are slipping in my personal hierarchy of bands. I haven't been crazy about three of their last four albums, and the one I did enjoy was too damned long. There was no real sense of urgency, nor am I currently regretting my decision. If I wasn't so sure the DBTs would be back through before too long, I might have dragged myself out there. But man did I sleep great last night!
  • I can't remember if I wrote about it here, but I posited that Radiohead could always surprise us with a complementary follow-up or addendum to the brief but brilliant King of Limbs. Alas, Ed O'brien has confirmed that it isn't the case. They'll release a song on Record Store Day (this weekend), but aside from that, the book is closed on King of Limbs.
  • If you're on Twitter, so are we. We have been for a while, but ignored the shit out of it for a long time. Been a bit more active lately so feel free to follow!
Recent Listening:
  • Felice Brothers - Celebration, Florida
  • Band of Horses - Cease to Begin
  • Charles Mingus - Mingus Ah Um
  • Toro y Moi - Underneath the Pine
  • Josh T. Pearson - Last of the Country Gentlemen
Upcoming Releases of Import:
  • Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues (May 3)
  • Okkervil River - I Am Very Far (May 10)
  • Felice Brothers - Celebration, Florida (May 10)
  • Man Man - Life Fantastic (May 10)
  • Death Cab for Cutie - Codes and Keys (May 31)
  • My Morning Jacket - Circuital (May 31)
  • Bon Iver - (no title yet) (June '11)
My Upcoming Concert Schedule:
  • Toro y Moi (Columbia, April 16)
  • Iron and Wine w/Low Anthem (Savannah, April 23)
  • The Fleet Foxes (Atlanta, May 14)
A Tube For You:
Merle Haggard looks more like a college football coach than a country singer here, but his singing is always as effortless as it is pleasing to the ears. Get a load of that slick guitarist's free-flowing mullet. Country band session player in the 80s? Your mullet better be epic as hell, son.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Indie Music Mayhem 2.0 Contestant 6: My Morning Jacket

My Morning Jacket

Album: Circuital
Release Date: May 31
About the Band: Festival titans with a fervent following release their first new LP in three years.
Last Record: As curveballs go, Evil Urges was a Barry Zito 6-12 knee-buckler. Like Barry Zito, the results were mixed and some felt like it was a waste of money. I had the album in our top ten that year, and while I stand by that assessment, I must confess that I don't call upon it all too often.
Reason for Excitement: Jim James has one of the best voices on the planet, and they're only two albums removed from arguably their best effort in Z.
Reason for Concern: Was Evil Urges and experiment, or a sign of a greater trend? Again, I didn't mind it as much as others, but at the same time I'd welcome a return to the soaring rock stylings of Z.
Early indications: Those who wrote off Evil Urges should greet the new single, title track "Circuital", with open arms. It's a seven minute rip-roaring rocker, and it sounds great.
Prediction: Strong contenders to take the whole damn thing, if they're on their game.

Now that the contenders have been previewed, the stage is set. Next post will look at how last year's predictions compared to the actual results.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Indie Music Mayhem 2.0 Contestant 5: Death Cab For Cutie

Death Cab For Cutie


Album: Codes and Keys
Release Date: May 31
About the Band: Your college girlfriend's favorite band, Pacific Northwest indie icons DCFC ready their 7th studio LP.
Last Record: I'll have to plead ignorance on this one. I've heard a good bit of Narrow Stairs through Pandora or on other chance occasions, but I never gave it any full listens.
Reason for Excitement: They're an established, well-liked act and Ben Gibbard is married to Zooey Deschanel. If Zooey isn't reason for excitement, I don't know what is.
Reason for Concern: At the end of the day, I'm just not a huge fan of the band. They're good, sure, but have never demanded much of my time or attention. Still, I'm committed to giving this one a fair shake.
Early indications: "You Are A Tourist" is a bouncy slab of inspie (inspiriatonal indie. See: Polyphonic Spree), and the live music video was really well done.
Prediction: The competition's going to be pretty stout, and Death Cab has a ton of bias going against it. Will they overcome? It'll be tough for them to finish in the front half.

We round out the previews by going Circuital with everyone's favorite Kentucky rockers...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Indie Music Mayhem 2.0 Contestant 4: Man Man

Man Man


Album: Life Fantastic
Release Date: May 10
About the Band: Band that falls into "hipster-as-fuck" aesthetic visually, but their music is ragged indie rock with something most indie rock lacks: attitude.
Last Record: 2008's Rabbit Habbits was a bit of a late discovery for me, but I'm glad I found it when I did. It's an album of colorful tracks with a zany glaze that might make Tom Waits take notice.
Reason for Excitement: They're capable of making a fine album as we learned with Rabbit Habbits. But their ace in the hole is Mike Mogis. The Bright Eyes member/producer extraordinaire stepped behind the mixer for Man Man, and I'm thinking his skilled touch could help the band craft a masterpiece.
Reason for Concern: Some bands lose steam with age. Will it happen with Man Man? Is this just a space-filler because I couldn't think of some other concern? Time will tell.
Early indications: Lead single "Knuckle Down" is a sinister, marimba-laden stomp that will get your juices flowing. Bodes well for the rest of the album.
Prediction: If the big boys monopolize my time/interest, Man Man could get marginalized a bit. But the lead single quality plus the Mogis factor suggest that they'll be right in the thick of things.

Up next, some Pac NW indie icons unleash a new LP...

Monday, April 11, 2011

Indie Music MAYhem 2.0 Contestant 3: The Felice Brothers

The Felice Brothers

They've pretty much got "best album art" in the bank...

Album: Celebration, Florida
Release Date: May 10
About the Band: Roving roots rockers from New York State; a blend of sloppy charm and Catskill rags.
Last Record: 2009's Yonder is the Clock was our runner up for album of the year. It marked their most cohesive effort to date, displaying their strengths and phasing out their weaknesses.
Reason for Excitement: The last Felice Brothers show I caught wasn't exactly one for the ages, but we did hear a few promising new tracks that are set to appear on Celebration, Florida.
Reason for Concern: "Ponzi", the first single from the new album, is different. Not bad, mind you--in fact I quite liked it. But drum machines, MGMT synths and vocal delay aren't exactly defining traits of the Felice Brothers. I love it when a band tries something new, but there needs to be a logical bridge from their known approach (see: Iron and Wine). It's certainly possible that the Felice Brothers are flying too close to the sun. It's inevitable that they'll confuse some of their core audience, but will they gain a larger following in the process? Is digifolk the new frontier?
Early indications: "Ponzi" is all we've heard so far. Color me intrigued but not yet convinced.
Prediction: I think they'll finish in the front or the back. They're an act I like enough to give them more credit if they pull this off. But if it doesn't work, it doesn't work.

Up next, a gang of Philly hipsters get the help of one Bright Eye...

Friday, April 8, 2011

Indie Music MAYhem 2.0 Contestant 2: Okkervil River

No Weekly Whathaveyou this week, as it's already going to be a post-heavy month. It will be somewhat common for us to take a week off from WWHY every now and then. Do you really need 52 of them?
Okkervil River

Album: I Am Very Far
Release Date: May 10
About the Band: Chamber pop collective from Austin with a dramatic flare.
Last Record: Their last LP proper was The Stand Ins, released in 2008 up as a supplementary follow-up to 2007's excellent The Stage Names. The former had its moments, but the latter is the one I keep going back to.
Reason for Excitement: Aside from past album success, what we've heard from the new one thus far has been promising. Remember when I posted that video of the band playing it on Fallon a few months ago?
Reason for Concern: Again, I wasn't crazy about their last album. But as I understand it, those were leftovers from the Stage Names sessions, originally intended to comprise a double album. So in some ways, this new LP will be the first fresh helping since 2007.
Early indications: Follow that link above and see for yourself. Outlook is good, in my opinion.
Prediction: Middle of the pack. I imagine I'll enjoy the album, but I'm not so biased in their favor as I am for a few other acts on the list. Although, recalling the Band of Horses debacle from last year, that might be a good thing...

Up next, some brothers (some with different mothers) from the Empire State...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Indie Music MAYhem 2.0 Contestant 1: Fleet Foxes

Let's get this show on the road. Over the next few weeks, I'll profile each upcoming release.

Fleet Foxes

Album: Helplessness Blues
Release Date: May 3
About the Band: Bucolic harmonizers from Seattle who took the scene by storm in 2008, releasing the year's best album in their self-titled debut.
Last Record: See above. Rich with 4 part harmonies and defined by a frontman whose vocal prowess belied his then-22 years, the album landed atop a number of year-end lists, including our own.
Reason for Excitement: Did you read the last two criteria? In its short life, the band has experienced a meteoric ascent and, through limited supply and the fans' foaming-at-the-mouth demand, are one of the hottest commodities in music.
Reason for Concern: They holed up in the studio for what seems like an eternity. Will too much knob-tweaking and fine-tuning result in a cluttered album lacking the effortless feel of their debut?
Early indications: Very good. Early singles are every bit as impressive as you'd expect from a band with such attention to detail.
Prediction: I'm not one for lofty expectations…but if Helplessness Blues not in the top three, then this May will go down as one of the best months in the history of music.

Up next, a bespectacled indie guy and crew...

New Poll: Who will release the best album of May 2011?

As always, we're interested in soliciting reader opinion. So let's hear your take on it: which MAYhem contender will release the best album? If you'd rather interpret the question as "Who released the best album in May?", you are welcome to withhold your response until you've heard all six. Poll will close on May 30th--one day before the Death Cab or MMJ albums drop.

Poll is at the right...get on it!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Indie Music MAYhem 2.0: Introduction

It has arrived. The second installment of our two month-spanning, completely unobjective contest. It pits May releases against one another in hopes of taking home the gold. And because it's my blog, I'm the judge, jury, and executioner motharfuxors.

Last year, the title went to Broken Social Scene, whose Forgiveness Rock Record topped the likes of The New Pornographers, Band of Horses, and the Hold Steady to take home the prize. Then I undermined myself by announcing that Phosphorescent's Here's to Taking It Easy was better than all of 'em. Then the fans undermined my undermining by overwhelmingly choosing The Black Keys' Brothers as May's best. You can brush up on last year's MAYhem over at the Deeper In page.

A year has passed, and now it's time for version 2.0. Over the next days and weeks, we'll get to know the contenders. Then in May, the MAYhem will begin, in the form of individual album reviews. Towards the end of May, I'll rank the albums and announce a winner. I should mention that two of the releases don't drop til May 31, so there's some remote chance I won't hear those til late in the month. But I'll go to great lengths to hear the albums plenty enough in advance to provide timely reviews and get the feature in under the wire. I'll also throw up a poll shortly, so you can all prove me wrong again, a-holes.

First previews to come shortly. Let the MAYhem begin!

Low Anthem covers Wilco

The Onion AV Club is just getting to its second season of "AV Undercover", a feature wherein they bring in younger indie rock acts to cover a more well-known track. It's a great idea (kinda makes HSW's features look silly by comparison) but more often than not, I'll be unfamiliar with the song being covered or the band that's covering it. But I awoke this morning to a welcome sight: a band I knew covering a song I loved.

The Low Anthem's sincere Americana approach would suggest they're disciples of Tweedy and crew, and the video below confirms that hunch. Here they play a decidedly Low Anthemy version of Summerteeth's "A Shot In the Arm", which remains Wilco's most-played song as of last year, according the sadly un-updated It's not quite as maniacally explosive as the original, but they do a fine job of making it their own. I especially like their treatment of the repeated line, "There's something in my veins/it's bloodier than blood"--still one of Tweedy's more chilling lyrical confessions. 

The Low Anthem covers Wilco

*If that video doesn't work for you--I know YouTube's new embed codes are screwing with certain browsers--go here to watch for yourself.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Weekly Whathaveyou - Friday, April 1, 2011

Various and Sundry Goings On About Music:
  • The blog is closing. #obligatoryAprilFoolsGag
  • Two of this year's MAYhem contenders are out there if you know where to look. TV On the Radio and Fleet Foxes are out there if you know where to look. I've listened to Nine Types of Light once and enjoyed it's funky flavor. Helplessness Blues saw the light of day late last week, and it hasn't left my car stereo. Stunning album.
  • Speaking of 2011 releases, I know it's been out for a while, but I'd like to tip my cap to Iron & Wine's Kiss Each Other Clean. Been listening to that one a bit lately after setting it aside for a few months, and it's aging really well. I know Sam Beam's glad to hear that--and that his alma mater (Virginia Commonwealth University) is in the Final Four.
  • While it wasn't quite so profound as to warrant a Things You Can't Forget feature, a nice music-moment occurred the other night while road-tripping home from the Avett Brothers show in Savannah. My standby night-driving album is Radiohead's Hail to the Thief--no surprise, as its production and overall feel begs for both high speeds and darkness. But when a steady rain cut through the fog during "Sit Down, Stand Up", it was on cue, as if Thom Yorke was narrating with his ghostly murmurs of "the raindrops, the raindrops, the raindrops..."
  • We recently nabbed our 50th follower. Thanks, MadalynnMarie and indeed all our followers. It is comforting to know that at least half of you might not be bots.
Recent Listening:
  • Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
  • TV On the Radio - Nine Types of Light
  • Avett Brothers - Four Thieves Gone
  • Radiohead - Hail to the Thief
  • The Hold Steady - Separation Sunday
Upcoming Releases of Import:
  • Cass McCombs - WIT'S END (April 12) 
  • TV On the Radio - Types of Light (April 12)
  • Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - Here We Rest (April 12)
  • Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues (May 3)
  • Okkervil River - I Am Very Far (May 10)
  • Felice Brothers - Celebration, Florida (May 10)
  • Man Man - Life Fantastic (May 10)
  • Death Cab for Cutie - Codes and Keys (May 31)
  • My Morning Jacket - Circuital (May 31)
  • Bon Iver - (no title yet) (June '11)
My Upcoming Concert Schedule:
  • Drive-By Truckers (Charleston, April 14)
  • Iron and Wine w/Low Anthem (Savannah, April 23)
  • The Fleet Foxes (Atlanta, May 14)
A Tube For You:
Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent are Shovels & Rope. They are from Charleston. They are currently opening for Hayes Carll. Their self-titled album that came out a few years ago is excellent. This is a track from said album. If you like Gram & Emmylou, tune in: