Monday, November 26, 2007

necessary, vital, indispensable, crucial?

Ah, Essential!

A little more time for the ones that are a little more gooder. Making our way, they only way I know how, #24 - #19 of the Essential Albums of 2007.

The Shepard’s Dog – Iron and Wine

Folk music has a hero and it’s big bearded and big-hearted Iron and Wine. There are plenty of others in the trade, but Iron and Wine have the one thing they don’t…general appeal and a sound that won’t put you to sleep. Iron and Wine nudges its sound over into what many may consider outside of true folk and more indie country. Regardless, I and W turn up the amps (to about 6) and mellow folk rock till the cows come home on this one. It’s clangy and plucky in all the right ways. Bluegrass for those that like to harmonize and watch the sunset but still have that urge to keep things jumping. The decidedly more uptempo and fuller sound to Dog, make this both the most successful LP and at the same time their most courageous; a feat that normally alludes. This album does reside in the area just beyond the music that I truly dig, but I respect the heck out of it. Personally it’s still too mellow, but I love the boldness in the approach and I sense SUBPOP is the perfect label for I and W to gather the heard and head for the greenist of pastures. A powerful and absorbing album.

Good Bad Not Evil – Black Lips

Right off the bat it’s the best album name of the year. Once that RBI is in the books comes the fact that these thrashers of the old are from Atlanta. The homerun comes right when you realize that the throwback, high-school drop out sound is far more complex that it seems and that’s when you hear the lyrics. Poignant and fierce, they tackle everything from the great religions to Katrina, all while swerving and swaying the sounds of true punksters…with dare I say more swagger and a few more chords than the likes of the Ramones? Many will write this album off, that’s their loss. This earns a true listen. How many great Punk acts can you name? Probably not many. Reason: they usually lack in the talent department relying on brash sex appeal and when that runs dry, well they fade away. Look for the Black Lips to stick around and one day they may just make that short list of great punk bands. This one’s a grand slam.

Ash Wednesday – Elvis Perkins

I’m gonna cheat here, deal with it. Ash Wednesday + the EP All Night Without Love combine to launch what I hope will be a brilliant career for Mr. Perkins. Carrying the title of Elvis anything brings with it a certain weight, but Perkins either tosses it aside or lifts it well upon his back because there is no sign of weakness or fear to his work. I found myself deep into several of these songs over and over again this year. The Dumps, All Night Without Love, and While You Were Sleeping, these songs crush me. The backing band, Dearland, doesn’t get the nod on the album cover, but they have been road warriors with Perkins (even crashing on a buddy of mine’s couch here in Charlotte). They’ve picked up many fans this year and have shared the spotlight some with Alec Ounsworth of CYHSY, but their music is of their own style. Spoil yourself and get the full package on this one, it won’t dissapoint.

Sojourner – Magnolia Electric Co.

Jason Molina’s band name may have changed over the years (Songs:Ohia) but his focus and sincerity in making brilliant music has stayed true to the heart. The title Sojourner finds origins in faith, overcoming and truth. Molina has a voice that sets him aside from all others. Smokey, dusty, a bit hollow and weighted with thought and intent, it yearns to be heard. The collection is overwhelming in quality and in size, running 34 tracks deep. I own the abridged collection, trimmed down some, but still full of the ambitiousness of the full set. The songs play like grimy yellowed westerns reeling slowly across the silver screen. Lonesome Valley, Nashville Moon, Texas 71, the moon songs and Hold on Magnolia are strong in every sense of the word. It’s size and scope can be daunting so start slow. Let it grow, wrap around and settle in. Soon the forest is grown and you’ll lie deep in thicket of sound.

Fort Nightly – The White Rabbits

It’s the black tie gala swinging event of the year and who else but a bunch of New Yorkers with a flare of the exotic and even a little topical should take center stage? It's the Walkmen meets calypso and I’m hitting the open bar to get the party rolling. Relentless and energetic to the max, it doesn’t make you want to tap your feet its reaches out of the stereo, grabs hold of the ladies and drags them to the dancefloor. This album was met with mixed reviews, some praise and plenty of bashing. I stumbled on it, got hooked on Kid on My Shoulders and then disregarded it. A while back MOKB had them in studio and I streamed the tracks. How had I missed this? It’s a flat out blast listening to this stuff…albeit a bit repetitive, but never droning. Once I re-approached this album so much more came to life under the glaring spotlight of center stage. It moves, it jumps, it tosses and turns and keeps perfect time on a wide variety of percussion. A true diamond in the rough.

Wild Mountain Nation Blitzen Trapper

In all reality this album should be a complete flop of mixed ambitions and half-thought through messy songs. It’s more than a little ambitious, it’s genre defying. Wild is far too predictable a word to describe the heaping jumble of whatnots composed here and as off the map as it is, it still finds the buried gold. If Pavement had been from North Texas by way of Montana, they easily would have made this album. The way the songs follow no suit, no order no allegiance to country, rock, folk or anything, it’s downright silly. Take in some of the most bizarre song titles and easily the most off kilter lyrics aside from Animal Collective and you’ve got yourself Wild Mountain Nation. Luke said it best when he regarded the album as some Neil Young project…he just failed to throw in the phrase “on speed.” I like this album as much for how off guard it caught me as for the true lasting power of these songs. In a sense it’s an impact album, but it’s got more too it than just some shock value, it’s got a pulse and buried deep in there, somewhere, a direction.

#18 - #13 later this week…

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