Thursday, July 30, 2009

Let It Roll

Yim Yames--aka Jim James, aka the frontman for Louisville, KY's country-funk-whatever outfit, My Morning Jacket--is releasing Tribute To on August 4, a collection of George Harrison covers James (or Yames...) recorded shortly after Harrison's death in 2001. The short EP not only showcases James' ability to turn even iconic songs into his own, but it also reaffirms what a hell of a songwriter The Quiet One was. The tracklist includes two Beatles tunes: perhaps the most underrated Harrison song, "Long, Long, Long"(off the White Album); and the song that set off the Indian music craze of the late '60s, Revolver's "Love You To," which James turns into a brooding Appalachian folk tune courtesy of some wicked banjo picking. The rest of the cuts all come from Harrison's brilliant solo debut, All Things Must Pass. You can stream the album here and pre-order the album here. James offers up several options for payment, including a bundled package of digital, CD, and limited edition vinyl versions of Tribute To, with some of the proceeds going to help Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary.

1. Long, Long, Long
2. Behind That Locked Door
3. Love You To
4. My Sweet Lord
5. Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)
6. All Things Must Pass

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My World Is Empty Without You

Along with Sharon Jones, Lee Fields plans on schooling those girls across the pond with a little neo-soul of his own. He started out as a James Brown sound-alike (earning him the nickname “Little JB”) in 1979, releasing a steady stream of unheralded soul and funk singles to a rabid but obscure regional North Carolina scene, but now Fields is back with a new album called My World. It's a slow burning mix of Southern-fried soul, syrupy-sweet '70s strings, and deep, hip-hop inspired rhythms courtesy of his backing band, the Expressions (featuring members of Sharon Jones' Dap Kings, no less). Fields' rough voice alternately pleads and croons over the various lovesick ballads, while the Expressions show their chops on several cinematic instrumentals peppered in the tracklist. He deftly demonstrates how to make a proper neo-soul album: a healthy mix of classic soul and modern sounds for a world completely his own. Below are two cuts from the record: the fluttering, funky, and beautiful "Love Comes And Goes" and the dark exasperation of "Money I$ King." Dig it.

Support the artist. Buy it here.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Wye Oak--The Knot

Recently, Baltimore, MD has gone through an interesting artistic reappraisal: while The Wire peeked under the carpet at the industrial city's vast criminal underworld, a kaleidoscopic DIY music aesthetic has taken root, perhaps to combat Baltimore's outwardly bleak reputation. Electro and dance music has put this town on the map, thanks to the national success of Animal Collective, Dan Deacon, and Ponytail. Wye Oak certainly don't fit into this scene, but they are nonetheless helping to establish Baltimore as an inherently artistic space.

The guy-girl duo of Andy Stack and Jenn Wasner create beautiful songs that precisely feed off their grim surroundings. These are simple, folk-inspired sketches that are dressed to the nines in Stack's ethereal production and given emotional depth by Wasner's heavy croon. Slices of pedal steel guitar pop up from time to time, adding somber touches to the engaging music. Stack is also a hell of a drummer, capable of quick dynamic shifts and inventive rhythms that shapeshift with the waves of guitars, like on "Talking About Money." Wye Oak capture a range of feelings: opening with the minimalist plodding of "Milk And Honey," the listener is drawn in closer by the wide-open country-soul of "For Prayer," the grungy blues squall of "Take It In," and the moody orchestral pop of "Siamese." Oftentimes, the album is awash with distorted guitar and reverb, but on "That I Do," Stack pulls back the layers in between the beats, creating brief stabs of silence that are especially powerful on such a modern-sounding record. On "Mary Is Mary," Wasner sketches out a tale of heartbreak and remorse as the band glacially builds up a feedback-driven crescendo, allowing Wasner to strongly but wearily proclaim “But what good does she have/ That I haven’t got?” It's a moment of naked emotional resignation, and it's devastating in both its simplicity and its honesty. And remember, The Knot is only their second album--usually, a release this fully realized and mature doesn't come until much later in a band's career.

The album is out on Merge Records, which is celebrating its twentieth birthday. The label that brought us iconic acts like the Arcade Fire, Spoon, Neutral Milk Hotel, the Magnetic Fields, and M. Ward has done it again with Wye Oak. This is Americana for a new generation--gritty, dark, but with humanistic touches that keep you returning for more.

Support the artist. Buy it here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Modern Times

Sorry about all the technological mishaps...if you could only play thirty second clips of songs before, you can now stream the entire songs below each post. I am still figuring out the best way to get the music to the masses, but for now, I will use this player to get around arcane copyright laws that those moldy record label dinosaurs continue to impose on their back catalogs (honestly, if bloggers are just trying to get the word out on awesome bands from the 50s, 60s, & 70s, why would you want to prevent that?). Sit back and enjoy the tunez...

*Note: you can play the songs once all the way through for free, but if you want to listen again, you have to get an account through, the music provider. It's a free account, so it shouldn't be too much of a hassle. If it is, just comment below, and I'll figure something else out.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My Back Pages: Neil Young's After the Gold Rush (1970)

Amidst teenage angst and cloudy, newspaper-smudged skies, I hopped into my Jeep Cherokee one rainy October afternoon. I flipped on the radio, listened to whatever middling crap 102.1 the Edge was trying to peddle as "alternative" music that day, and quickly flipped it back off. The afternoon was too grim to be accompanied only by my Jeep's metallic whir, so I fished around my car for a new soundtrack. Only two tapes were available: Ricky Nelson's Greatest Hits and Neil Young's After the Gold Rush. I chose the latter.

And it's a good thing I did. Though nothing against Ricky Nelson's cheeky tunes, NY's dark, insular 1970 masterpiece synced up perfectly with my changing musical tastes and sensibilities. I popped Side B into the tape deck and was immediately overwhelmed by the desolate, weary "Oh, Lonesome Me." Young takes Don Gibson's tears-in-your-beer country classic and slows it to a stumbling crawl, buoyed only by Young's whining harmonica and plaintive voice.

Despite the album's gloomy tone, it is wrapped in that early '70s warmth afforded by recording straight to analog tape. In other words, it's not bleak--there's a certain humanistic streak running through, from hearing Young's fingers gently find the piano chords on "Birds" or the gaps of empty space between drummer Ralph Molina's snare and hi-hat snaps on the plodding "I Believe In You."

The fact that I listened to it first on cassette only increased my love for it. Like vinyl before it, cassettes force you to break up the album in two parts. Each side is sequenced brilliantly, and it was only after devouring the sublime Side B that I persuaded myself to turn the tape over. "Tell Me Why" opens the album with these lines:

Sailing heart-ships/through broken harbors/out on the waves in the night
Still the searcher/must ride the dark horse/racing alone in his fright

Young's strummed guitar and haunting lyrics immediately suck the listener in, setting an almost autumnal tone right from the start. Most albums start with a bang, but Gold Rush somberly takes its time in its first half, running through three ballads before arriving at the incendiary "Southern Man." The first half closes with one of two minute-and-a-half pieces that add breezy, carefree shots that mesh nicely with the surrounding expanse.

This is by far my favorite Neil Young record because it's fairly different from most of his others: every song interacts to serve the record as a whole; the lead guitar playing is atonal but also somewhat restrained; and Neil uses some great backing vocalists (among them Stephen Stills) to complement his high warble. It's also a mysterious record; the lyrics are cryptic and the arrangements and songwriting are decidedly more obtuse than the straight-up country rock he would employ on later releases.

I wore this tape out my junior year of high school. Sometimes I would just get in my car and drive all over Dallas just to listen to it; it was that good. Gold Rush quickly ushered me out of my punk rock phase and reintroduced me to my first love: good country music. I quickly became a devoted music enthusiast soon after that discovery because of the way the record made me feel, and most of my musical acquisitions are based on a certain emotional scale that I first acquired via Neil.

Is there an album that inspired you in such a way? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Support the artist. Buy the album here.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


"We got the sky to talk about/ And the world to lie upon."
--"To Live Is To Fly," Townes Van Zandt

So said TVZ. With that in mind, welcome to this space. Here you will find daily updates of music--big names, small names, criticism, reminiscings, and ramblings, all as a means to connect one audiophile to another. I also plan to post thoughts about art, film, literature, and history as side dishes to the main auditory course.

But first, a little bit about the name. I live in Austin, TX--formerly named Waterloo. I don't want to limit this blog to one category, so I will include "everything under the sun"--from avant-garde to zydeco.

And what better first song to leave y'all with than the blog's namesake, "Waterloo Sunset" by The Kinks. It is a timeless piece about a very specific point in time--people-watching along the River Thames in London. Enjoy!