Alternate Tuning

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Location: Charlottesville, Virginia, United States

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

New Releases This Week

Feist -- Let It Die (Interscope) 3/5*
The Mountain Goats -- Sunset Tree (4AD)
New Order -- Waiting for the Sirens' Call (Warner Brothers)
The Perishers -- Let There Be Morning (Nettwerk) 2.5/5
Porcupine Tree -- Deadwing (Atlantic)
Bruce Springsteen -- Devils & Dust (Sony)
Stereolab -- Oscillons from the Anti Sun (Beggars/Too Pure)
Tiger Bear Wolf -- Tiger Bear Wolf (Hello Sir) 4/5
Z-Trip -- Shifting Gears (Hollywood) 3.5/5**

*US release of last year's debut.
**Review forthcoming in Stylus.

Saul Williams -- s/t (Fader) 2004

I never listened to Williams until seeing him at SXSW, where he showed how to work a hip-hop crowd while dropping smart, conscious rhymes. His self-titled album from last year's practically a must-have if you're into this type of hip-hop. "Grippo" stands out, with its booming chorus, and "Black Stacey" works as a strong statement of self-empowerment, and the uses and abuses of language. Williams performs as much as a spoken-word poet as a rapper, blurring a distinction that's still fuzzy in some circles. Musically, the beats are pretty varied, and Williams makes great use of electric guitar (much better than, say, Mos Def did on The New Danger).

Friday, April 22, 2005

Talking With Dizzee

Elisabeth Donnelly at PopMatters talks to the Rascal here.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Chatham County Live

I forgot to mention that I saw Chatham County Line the other night. Read about it here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

New Releases This Week

Danko Jones -- We Sweat Blood (Razor & Tie)
Elkland -- Golden (Sony) 3.5/5
Heavy Trash -- Heavy Trash (Yep Roc) 3/5
Mandarin Movie -- Mandarin Movie (Aesthetics) 3/5
Roots Manuva -- Awfully Deep (Big Dada) 3/5
Mary Timony -- Ex Hex (Lookout!) 2.5/5
Dave Van Ronk -- The Mayor of MacDougal Street: Rarities 1957-69 (Multicultural Media)
Z-Trip -- Shifting Gears (Hollywood) 3.5/5

Monday, April 18, 2005

Pick of the Week (4/18/05)

Sun Ra and the Astro Infinity Arkestra -- Atlantis (Saturn) 1967

Best space-jazz clavinet album I know.

The Second This Month

16 Horsepower has posted a note on their website that they're splitting up:

As with the dearly departed Delgados, I came late to this band, but immediately liked what I heard. The upside: Woven Hand's about to start a tour, and I'd rather see one of his shows if I had to pick (but I wish I didn't).

Friday, April 15, 2005

Manic Street Preachers - The Holy Bible 10th Anniversary Edition

I was a latecomer to the Manic Street Preachers, not really getting into them until last year, when all of the sudden my Britpop interests launched, and I discovered that This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours (or whatever it's called) is about the best of the lot. So I didn't have The Holy Bible the last 10 years and I'm not an MSP completist in any sense.

That said, the album itself is very impressive -- political, oblique, aggressive, complex, and dirty. It's hard to even pick a favorite track, although "Ifwhiteamerica..." is probably mine. The bonus material here is extensive but not astonishing: lots of live cuts and about 15 songs with videos/concert footage on the DVD, as well as a 30-minute interview, which wouldn't be overly enlightening to a long-time fan I'd think (but I was surprised to learn that "75%" of the lyrics on this album were Richie's -- I always associate them with Nicky Wire).

The US mix makes up the bulk of the second disc, and it's worth hearing as an archive, but it's definitely inferior to the original. The sound is bigger, which detracts from that dirty, underground feel of the original mix. The band sounds even more stadium-ready than they already do, but THB should feel like the soundtrack for dark-basement revolutionaries.

I still think Truth is the better album, but I know I'm probably in the minority with that opinion. This one's got a whole different feel (as captured by the inexplicable cover art) and the added material's a good portrait of the band's live sound and visual aesthetic at the time.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

New Releases This Week

American Hi-Fi -- Hearts on Parade (Maverick)
Emperor X Central -- Hug/Friendarmy/Fractaldunes (Discos Mariscos)
Garbage -- Bleed Like Me (Geffen) 2.5/5
The National -- Alligator (Beggars Banquet)
Of Montreal -- The Sundlandic Twins (Polyvinyl) 3.5/5
The Rosebuds -- The Rosebuds Unwind EP (Merge)
The Sights -- The Sights (New Line/Scratchy) 3/5
Starflyer 59 -- Talking Voice vs. Singing Voice (Tooth & Nail)
Supersystem -- Always Never Again (Touch and Go)
Martha Wainwright -- Martha Wainwright (Zoe)
Victor Wooten -- Soul Circus (Vanguard) 3.5/5

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Good-bye, Delgados

I know the news is a few days old by now, but the break-up of the Delgados is worth mentioning:

They've got at least three albums worth tracking down (in order: Hate, The Great Eastern, and Universal Audio), and I was looking forward to more.

Friday, April 08, 2005

This Way to American Idol

I've given my blog thoughts for today to the Stylus blog.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

New Releases This Week

The Books -- Lost and Safe (Tomlab) 3/5
British Sea Power -- Open Season (Rough Trade) 3/5
Dirty Projectors -- The Getty Address (Western Vinyl)
Faith Evans -- The First Lady (Capitol) 3/5
Fantomas -- Suspended Animation (Ipecac)
Fischerspooner -- Odyssey (Capitol)
Fripp and Eno -- The Equatorial Stars (Discipline Global Media)
Hot Hot Heat -- Elevator (Sire) 3/5
Magnolia Electric Co -- What Comes After the Blues (Secretly Canadian)
Okkervil River -- Black Sheep Boy (Jagjaguwar) 5/5
Ray J. -- Raydiation (Sanctuary)
Stiff Little Fingers -- Inflammable Material with bonus tracks (Restless Records) 3.5/5 for original
V/A - Music from The O.C.: Mix 4 (Warner Brothers) 3/5
Vast Aire & DJ Mighty Mi -- The Best Damn Rap Show (Eastern Conference)

Monday, April 04, 2005

Pick of the Month (4/4/05)

Today I'm giving you one that should entertain you the whole month: Okkervil River's Black Sheep Boy. It streets tomorrow, and it's the best album I've heard in over a year. My review is up as the album of the week at Stylus:

My last favorite album, Kanye West's The College Dropout is great for what it is, a whole presentation of a personality, rife with contradictions and complexities. BSB is more an auteurist work, with Will Sheff's songwriting brilliance and craft serving as my points of focus. If it was just about the craft (a recent obsession in my reviewing), I wouldn't be nearly so into it. It's a really moving character study, with some of the most beautiful and heart-wrenching lyrics I've heard in a long time.

Reviewing it, I had to keep stopping myself from saying things like "The best album since..." or "the most fully realized concept since..." Even though those statements would be (for once) true, I didn't want my review hindered by any sort of comparisons. It's not the next OK Computer; I want it to be the first Black Sheep Boy, even if it starts with a cover.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Sojourners' 50 Cent Update

The news from the latest Sojourners newsletter:

Rapper hurt by falling dollar

American entertainers have started feeling the effect of the U.S. dollar's precipitous devaluation on world markets. In many European venues, for example, platinum-selling rap artist 50 Cent has been forced to perform under the name of 37 Cent, depending on the daily rate. Just last weekend, after another exchange hit in England, the rapper had no choice but to begin his tour of the British Isles as 10 Shillings, Threepence, a name that may undermine his urban street thug persona. Fortunately, because of China's commitment to artificially prop up American rap imports, 50 Cent is still selling strong in Asia as 74 Yen.

(yes, it's April 1st)