Monday
Jun072010

First half recap: my favorite albums of 2010, so far

It's already June, and that means it's time to take step back and take stock of the new music that has come out so far this year.  Force ranking art is completely arbitrary - records impact me differently each time I listen to them, so how can I fairly rank one against another?  Therefore, I've decided not to do that.  Instead, consider this a list of records that are well worth checking out, in no particular order.

Wooden Dinosaur - Nearly Lost Stars

Nearly Lost Stars from Vermont's Wooden Dinosaur is hands down my favorite discovery of 2010 (so far).  These are rustic, plain-spoken and often heartbreaking songs of love and loss.  Roberts' fingerpicked acoustic guitar and weathered vocals are the constants, but shuffling percussion, banjo, fiddle, lap steel, horns and the occasional electric guitar add layers of sound.  The result is an absolutely beautiful record that deserves to be heard by the masses.  Buy it here, and tell your friends.

Wooden Dinosaur - Can't Be Me

 


Dr. Dog - Shame, Shame

Dr. Dog continue to put out consistently great records, and Shame, Shame is no exception.  Like Fate before it, Shame, Shame shows the polish of a maturing band, and features a steady dose of bouncy folk-pop grooves.  Shadow People, Jackie Wants A Black Eye, Mirror Mirror and Stranger are standouts, but the entire record is fantastic - this has rarely left my car CD player since I got it.  Get it here.

Dr. Dog - Shadow People

Full soundboard recording of Dr. Dog's recent show at the Paradise in Boston available for stream/download here (newly remastered).

 

 Spoon - Transference

I love it when a band follows up a commercially successful record with a bit of a curveball - a challenge to the new fans.  Don't get me wrong, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is a fantastic record from start to finish - but Transference trades in the sugar-sweet Stax hooks and Spector-ish production for decidedly less-accessible influences; twisted rythms and wiry Tom Verlaine-esque guitar leads.  Still, it's unmistakably a Spoon record - driving percussion, gritty guitars and devestating grooves.  Get it here.

Spoon - I Saw The Light

 

Josh Ritter - So Runs The World Away

I consider Josh Ritter one of the most important songwriters of our generation - one of few worthy of carrying on the tradition of Dylan, Springsteen, et al.  2007's The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter, probably the most "fun" and upbeat record in the Ritter catalogue, seemed a bit like a bit of a breather after the epic Animal YearsSo Runs The World Away is a return to the cinematic storytelling and intricate compositions that made the Animal Years an incredible and moving record.  Buy it here.

Josh Ritter - Southern Pacifica

 

Titus Andronicus - The Monitor

The Monitor has been positioned as a loose concept album based around the Civil War, complete with marching drums and readings of period-era speeches.  However, the Civil War pretense seems to only shift focus from the real story - this is a deeply personal account of a defeated man returning to the home he once wanted to escape.  Less than a minute in Patrick Stickles sets the tone for the record, subverting the Springsteen anthem of optimism and escape, screaming "baby we were born to die!".  The result though, through fist-pumping choruses and cathartic singalongs, is rewarding and satisfying.  Get it here.

Titus Andronicus - Theme From "Cheers"

 

Not to be forgotten:

The National - High Violet
Kingsley Flood - Dust Windows
Joe Pug - Messenger
Crusaders of Love - Never Grow Up
The Morning Benders - Big Echo

 

Sunday
Jun062010

Dr. Dog: Paradise Boston 5.12.10

 

Dr. Dog brought their energetic live show to the Paradise last Wednesday for the second of two sold out shows.  As I watched from the balcony, the stage was a blur of bright lights and neon.  The songs were grittier and played with more intensity than the album versions, and came in rapid-fire succession - there were almost no breaks whatsoever.  The packed crowd danced to a set that was expectedly heavy on tracks from 2008's Fate and the just-released Shame, Shame.  Having seen Dr. Dog a few times now, I was impressed by how far the band has come in recent years - the rag-tag underdogs from Philly now have a deep catalogue of bouncy folk/psych/pop gems, a reliably excellent live show and dedicated, rabid fan base.  

Fantastic full soundboard recording of the show is available for stream/download below.  Thanks to Dr. Dog and their top-notch sound crew for the great recording.  If you download this please support the band by going to see the show when they come to your town, and go buy Shame, Shame if you haven't already.  Enjoy!

Dr. Dog
Paradise Rock Club - Boston MA
May 12, 2010

Mirror Mirror
Hang On
The Old Days
Army Of Ancients
The Way The Lazy Do
Someday
Shadow People
The Ark
The World May Never Know
I Only Wear Blue
Later
Unbearable Why
The Beach
The Breeze
The Rabbit, The Bat and The Reindeer
Station
The Girl
Shame, Shame
Jackie Wants a Black Eye
Stranger
Die Die Die
Fat Dog
Easy Beat
Heart It Races (Architecture In Helsinki)
My Friend

Full set downloads:  mp3 zip  


Thursday
May272010

visible voice at Sasquatch


visible voice is heading out to the Pacific Northwest for the Sasquatch Music Festival.  I got shut out for press credentials, so I'll be going rogue and getting whatever content I can via non-professional still + video cameras.  visiblevoice.net will be quiet for the next few days - but feel free to follow @visiblevoicebos on twitter for live tweets from the festival.

Also taking this opportunity to post one of my favorite tracks from a band that I will be seeing live for the first time at Sasquatch:

Pavement - Gold Soundz

Tuesday
May252010

New music: Delta Spirit - History From Below

Delta Spirit’s upcoming sophomore LP History From Below is one of my most anticipated releases of the year.  I’m very excited to announce that the full album is available to stream below.  More comments to follow, but after one listen, I like what I hear.  Let me know what you think in the comments. 

Monday
May242010

Live Video: The Low Anthem

The Low Anthem's live show is captivating and inspiring - every time I see them, I leave in awe.  The band makes organic, beautiful music that is breathtaking in its purity.  I had the pleasure of seeing them twice recently; the April 20 show from the Paradise in Boston was documented via a crystal clear soundboard recording.  I'm now happy to share some excellent video from the Portland Maine show that took place just two days later.  The combination of a dimly lit stage and brightly backlit backdrop make for tough video conditions - but, with some added effects, I think the result is striking.  The band, cast in sepia tones and playing the melancholy "To The Ghosts Who Write History Books" against a backdrop of pulsing electric blue creates a startling contrast.

There may be more videos to come from this show - stay tuned, and enjoy.

Sunday
May232010

Cover Me: Bruce Springsteen

Cover Me will be a recurring feature on visible voice that will showcase exceptional or interesting covers.  Cover songs are a tricky thing; done well they can highlight influences and similarities between the covering band and the covered that may or may not be apparent at first and in rare cases even transcend the original to become something entirely new.  Done poorly and the result can reduce an otherwise great band to the level of a wedding band, or worse, me in my bedroom playing Neil Young songs on a slightly out-of-tune acoustic guitar.

The inaugural edition of Cover Me features Bruce Springsteen, the artist for which this segment gets its name.  With a new wave of artists heavily indebted to Springsteen's work, he is a natural target for the cover treatment.  However, while the songs may be musically straightforward, channeling the passion from which the songs were written and the intensity with which they are performed is a daunting and difficult task, but these bands are up to the task.  Each of bands featured below takes a classic Springsteen song and adds their own original stamp, while still paying respect to the original:

Streets of Philadelphia (Marah)
Atlantic City (The Hold Steady)
The River (Josh Ritter)
Nebraska (Deer Tick)

Friday
May212010

Vikesh Kapoor: Lizard Lounge Cambridge 5.11.10

Vikesh Kapoor at the Lizard Lounge. Photo by Maria Cristina Romero

Vikesh Kapoor brought his timeless folk songs to the Lizard Lounge last week.  Standing in the single spotlight with harmonica around his neck and guitar slung off his shoulder, he looked the part of a troubador and sang songs of struggle and heartache.  The excellent 40 minute set featured a mix of songs from his debut EP On the Tail of a White Donkey as well as the recently released Newspress Scare 7".  In the dimly lit basement that is the Lizard Lounge, it felt like it could have been 1962.  The songs are pure folk songs that recall the social commentary of Dylan and Seeger, but are wholly relevant to today's unique issues and concerns.  Vikesh Kapoor is a true songwriting talent, and I'm looking forward to hearing much more from him in the future.  Check out more photos from the show here.

Full soundboard recording is available for stream or download below.  Sound is excellent, but we were only able to get a mono feed, which I think gives the recording a vintage feel.  Thanks to Vikesh and the Lizard Lounge for making this recording possible - please support Vikesh Kapoor by buying his music and visiting his myspace.  Check out his live show at Club Passim's campfire festival on Saturday 5/29 - tickets available here.

Vikesh Kapoor
Lizard Lounge - Cambridge, MA
May 11, 2010

Careless Love
Down by the River
Willy Robbins
Butcher Boy
Newspress Scare
If I Had a Song
Mack The Knife

Full set download:  mp3 zip

I was able to capture Willy Robbins on video, one of many highlights. Video quality is somewhat mediocre, but I think it captures the ambiance of the room and power of the live performance pretty well:

 

 

Wednesday
May192010

New music: Marah - "Valley Farm Song"

Marah circa 2007Marah, more than possibly any other band, played a huge role in shaping and refining my musical tastes.  They entered my consciousness at an extremely formative time - the year was 2001 and I was about to enter my senior year of high school.  Kids In Philly was just about the most exciting thing I had ever heard - a record that channeled the soul and grit of Tom Waits, recklessness of The Replacements and youthful idealism of Springsteen.  As the title suggests, Kids In Philly has an undeniable sense of place, but the stories and characters are universal.  What sealed the deal for me though was the live show.  The marathon shows on 2004's tour in support of 20,000 Streets Under The Sky felt to me like seeing Springsteen in the early 70s.  The band was tight, the shows were long and almost spiritual.  I was mad to live and Marah made me feel alive.  The memories of listening to their music and seeing them live will forever help define my college years.  Those long nights at TTs, Maxwells, The Southpaw, The 100 Club in London are some of the most vivid and beautiful memories I have.

Marah faced a lot of adversity over those years though.  They dealt with numerous lineup changes, critical praise came and went and came again, they shared the stage with legends - but the commercial success they deserved never really came.  After the release of 2008's Angels of Destruction the band splintered, cancelling a world tour just days before it was scheduled to start.  Serge Bielanko headed west towards fatherhood, while brother Dave held down the fort - the Marah as I knew it was done for good.  I haven't seen them live since 2006 and, which might be for the best.  

With all that as background, suffice it to say that my interest was piqued when I saw that the "new" Marah has an album coming out soon, and the first single Valley Farm Song is starting to make the rounds online.  I'm happy to report that it mostly captures the ramshackle beauty of my favorite Marah songs.  Clattering percussion, suczzy guitars and Dave's distinctive nicotine-stained voice.  Check it out, along with a few of my favorite Marah songs (one from each record):

Valley Farm Song (new)
Formula, Cola, Dollar Draft (Let's Cut The Crap and Hook Up Later On)
My Heart Is The Bums On The Street (Kids In Philly)
Soul (Float Away With The Friday Night Gods)
Pigeon Heart (20,000 Streets Under The Sky)
Sooner or Later (If You Didn't Laugh, You'd Cry)
Can't Take It With You (Angels of Destruction)

Sunday
May092010

Recommended: Vikesh Kapoor

  

Vikesh Kapoor writes folk songs that sound as if they were teleported from 1960s Greenwich Village - but rather than shallow nostalgia, the songs take real modern issues and wrap them in language and delivery that recall the past.  Newspress Scare, a freewheelin' protest song,  uses a metaphor of a broken newspress to comment on topics such as political deception, the failure of media and public apathy -- or at least that's my interpretation.  Listen for yourself:

Vikesh Kapoor - Newspress Scare

Get the Newspress Scare 7" here.  Vikesh Kapoor opens for John Shade at Lizard Lounge tomorrow (5/11), tickets only $5 - get them here.


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