The cave singers, more so than almost any other band, have a way of making me feel comfortable and at ease. Maybe it’s lead singer Pete Quirk’s way of crawling through the lyrics with his trademark grainy voice. Maybe it’s the relative simplicity of the key elements of their songs. Whatever it is, it gets me. “No Witch” has a rustic, but not at all antiquated quality that is hard to pin point. It’s the type of music that the band seems to feel so at ease making that at times it feels like Quirk is just improvising the verses. In general, The Cave Singers keep things pretty low key, but their are enough exuberant and rowdy numbers to avoid any sort of monotony. Every once in a while a record comes along that just ‘fits’ with me. This is one of those records.
This is another one of those semi-dubstep / hipster pseudo-R&B type deals. And I can’t say that I’m a big fan. It is however significantly better than that James Blake album in my eyes because it does actually sound like music as opposed to a broken 80’s cassette player. Also, Woon can really sing (even without the help of autotune). In general though I just found this record undeniably boring. It doesn’t even have the raw sex appeal of that album by ‘The Weeknd’. The only track worth mentioning was “Night Air”, a quiet to loud gem that’s carried by Woon’s smooth vocals and is just way cooler than anything else on the album.
don’t memorize all of your locations
you are nowhere, you are nothing vacant
On “No Colors” the San Franciscan folkers return to their roots as a duo. A decision that serves the band well after the flop(pish), “Time To Die”, which felt a little too glossy and forced throughout. On “No Color”, the band once again sounds ‘rustic’ and substantive. The end result of the simple (minimal) ingredients seems far greater than the sum of it’s parts. Like a good soup that’s been allowed to have it’s flavors simmer and develop over time, “No Colors” really maximizes the effect of drums, jangly guitar and vocals.
While Meric Long’s singing is more than capable of carrying most songs, the thing that sets the Dodos apart from other folk rock outfits is, and always has been percussion. The frenetic, in your face drumming style really pounds it’s way to the forefront of every song on “No Color”. In tracks like “Black Night” and “Going Under” the drums serve as more than a dependable back bone of a song. The Dodos use drumming as well as any band I can think of to provide their songs with a jolt of raw energy and liveliness that sets them apart from most other folk pop type groups.
“Good” is one of those tracks where everything just strikes a really nice balance for the Dodos. Long’s voice/exuberance, his guitar and the electric elements all hold up to the whirlwind of drumming by Logan Koeber. Also there is a perfectly placed lull/gentle drum solo fit in at the 3:50 mark that gives you a chance to catch your breath.
While “No Color” doesn’t feature any major breakthroughs for The Dodos it does find them returning to what they do best. And as time has progressed I think that the duo now has a better grasp on just exactly what that is.
There are scattered records, then there are completely disjointed ‘clusterfucks’ like “Unlearn”. This isn’t even to say that all of “Unlearn” was bad (a sizeable portion was). I really liked “Powerful Lovin”, an alt-sockhop slow dance song for the ages. Sounds kind of like if Quentin Terrentino directed Grease. Also, “Baby Don’t You Cry” was a really enjoyable ‘garagey’ pop rock jam with plenty of fast paced “lala’s” to go around. But to say that much of “Unlearned” lacked direction or focus would be putting it lightly. Because, not only were some of the songs like “Wanna Know What I Would Do?” puzzling, but they were frankly really bad. Some groups excel when they get ‘goofier’. Fergus & Geronimo aren’t one of them. Hopefully, in the future they stick to the brand soulful ‘retro garage pop’ that they seem to have a real knack for.
Baby Don’t You Cry Unlearn: 2.5 out of 5.
Kiss Each Other Clean by Iron & Wine
After the successful experiment with the sound of a full supporting band in “Sheperds dog”, “Kiss Eachother Clean” seems like the next logical but bold evolutionary step for Sam Beam. The album features a completely new, fully flushed out sound for the folk icon, complete with choral arrangements, jazz/funk moments, plenty of reverb and other electronic elements. The end result is gorgeous. It’s a warm record and still as intimate as anything Iron & Wine has ever released, even despite all of the new moving parts.
I saw sinners making music
I’ve dreamt of that sound, dreamt of that sound
To me the parallels between “Kiss Each Other Clean” and Sufjan’s “Age of Adz” are less than subtle. Both artists seemed to completely reinvent there sound while still probably leaving something there that old fans would still get enjoyment out of. Even the lead tracks “I Walked” by Sufjan and “Walking Far From Home” by Iron & Wine seem shockingly similar in a lot of ways (their names being one of them). The one major difference between the two albums is that “Kiss Each Other Clean” is light years more accessible and inviting.
Walking Far From Home MP3
Tree By The River Download
I think that today, Dylan comparisons seem to be as much of a hindrance as compliment to a lot of artists. They currently seem to be thrown around almost in excess. But, let’s get it out of the way. Yes Pug is a folk singer, yes he plays the harmonica, yes his lyrics are complex, intelligent, and they are as deeply personal and introspective as they are focused on the bigger questions the world has to offer. While these qualities may be ‘Dylanesque’, aren’t they qualities that every song writer hopes to achieve? If you are caught up in the comparison, just try for one second to stop and just listen to Pug. He speaks the truth.
“Messenger” is an impressive and genuine display of no frills songsmanship that any singer songwriter of any era would have to appreciate. I’m not even really sure what else to say about it other than it’s the type of song writing that demands the listeners complete undivided attention. If we are gonna stick with the Dylan comparison I’d have to say that “How Good You Are” is definitely the most “Blood on the Tracks” song on the album. However there is legitimate diversity by Pug on this record. For example, “The Door Was Always Open” has a sense of banjo laden whimsy that wasn’t present on Pug’s first Ep or on anything by Dylan. Just listen to it. It’s a powerful if not genre changing record.
If you take one thing away from “Harlem River Blues” it has to be that Justin Townes Earle has a sophisticated musical pallet. There is no doubt that the man is well versed in American musical history, not that this should be surprising from a man whose last name is Earle and middle name is Townes. On this album, influences seem to range from Sonny Terry to Woody Guthrie to Elvis to Ryan Adams. Stylistically, blues, rockabilly, country, folk, and even gospel all make appearances. All of this initially makes “Harlem River Blues” feel a bit scattered, but after a second listen the album feels like a musical tour of the American South over the past 75 years. It’s a pretty impressive feat, considering that JTE’s music still comes off as fresh and new, never antiquated. Feelin’ like with this album that Earle has given us the most up to date and accurate definition of the previously vague genre of music called “Americana”, which I have heard used to describe far too diverse a group of artists ranging from Old Crow Medicine Show to Wilco. Harlem River Blues shows us that “Americana music”i s more of a heterogeneous collection of sounds than a homogeneous one. It’s more of a class of music as opposed to a genus.
I’m not completely sure “Ain’t Waitin'” is the best song on the whole album, but it’s certainly the most playful, and the line about Satellite radio might be my favorite. Music like this is comforting. It’s the audio equivalent to eating the fried chicken that the song starts off singing about.
“Wanderin'” is a beautifully pieced together old school ramblin’ folk song that definitely has that Woody Guthrie / early Dylan sound to it. It’s just a bit more cheery, maybe because JTE doesn’t seem to let the weight of pressing social issues play much (if any) role in his music. “Working for the MTA” has sort of a Johnny Cash sentiment. It’s the sort of blue collar anthem where people ‘hoot and holler’ between verses to express their connection to the particular line and to acknowledge the performer for hitting the nail on the head. Live, the song is like a tamer, less confrontational version of “Folsom Prison Blues” or something. Both Cash and JTE are masters of somehow maintaining authenticity without any real first hand experience.
The album’s title track has less than subtle gospel and delta blues influences, the choral arrangements, hand clapping, and spiritual(ish) lyrics make the song sound like it would be best performed in a sweaty church in the deep South. Finally, “Move Over Mama” is a fantastically effortless, rockabilly/honky tonk type number that even Sun Sessions era Elvis would have been proud of. It’s also really the most obvious influence from Justin’s father Steve on any of his songs. It’s Kind of like Justin is just showing us that he could have very well gone that route with his career as well, but instead he sought out to make his own name.
Even if you’ve never found yourself enamored with old school country sounds, I think that you’ll find that JTE is an amicable enough of a tour guide through all things Americana, that you will at the very least leave with an appreciation for his passion and craft.