Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Big Day for New Music

Last time I checked, we had Nellie McKay, Band of Horses, Steve Earle, Iron and Wine, Joni Mitchell, Foo Fighters, Weakerthans all slated for Sept. 25 intros. And two No-Necks, a reissue and a new one. P.J. Harvey delayed her long-awaited scary-solo-piano album til next week, where she only has to compete with Bruce Springsteen and E Street. Sheesh.

(HEY! My snap reviews of Iron and Wine, Nellie, Weakerthans, Davendra, and Joni are in the Comments for this post. Foo Fighters, Band of Horses, and Steve Earle will have to wait.)


LauraS said...

Going to see Iron & Wine tonight in Montreal! Should be a great show... I'll let you know how it goes :)

Loring Wirbel said...

Well, Laura, Iron and Wine has pushed its way to the top of the new ones I've heard. Here's summaries:

Iron & Wine, "The Shepherd's Dog," Wow, what happened to Sam Beam? The traditional folk harmonies on earlier stuff were fine, but this isn't evolution, it's a grand leap forward, full of rich song structures, percussion, unusual chords. Maybe the collaboration with Calexico helped, though this album is hardly Tex-Mex. It's just first-class intelligent, well-structured songs, and the last two are even happy!

Nellie McKay, "Obligatory Villagers" -- This is only 31 minutes on one disc, a big change from Nellie's two double-disc sprawling releases, but this one has a full big band - not as in smoky jazz singer, but as in Bugs Bunny/Animaniacs tunes. Nellie swears like a French whore, gives us lyrics far too complex for anyone to follow, and obviously has a great time.

Weakerthans, "Reunion Tour" -- Great to have these guys back, hard to figure out where this fits after the last two excellent studio efforts. The New York Times pegged it when they said the Canadian references are over the top here, and Wthns try too hard to be the Canadian Death Cab for Cutie. What NYT didn't say is that Stephen Carroll tries hard not to over-intellectualize like he's done in the past, and largely avoids falling into the Ben Gibbard "self-importance" trap. And the musical arrangements here are first rate, particularly in the sparse hockey-fan tune.

Davendra Banhart, "Smoky Rolls Down Thunder Canyon," This might be more diverse and bilingual than "Cripple Crow," but with 16 songs at 66 minutes, there's too much meandering here. I know, meandering is what hippie-fairy-freak bands do best, and at least half the songs are beautiful, but Banhart needs a lesson from Sam Beam on how to make songs GO somewhere.

Joni Mitchell, "Shine" -- Does the diva-poet deserve the harsh reviews she's getting? Yes and no. The arrangements certainly are rich, though they're not as adventurous as in the Summer Lawns/Hejira days. The writing is beautiful and controlled, and I'm thankful Joni is political - to a point. I share the complaints of many reviewers who say the accusatory finger sounds like it's being pointed by a child of privilege. This reminds me of the 1972 National Lampoon spoof of Joan Baez, where she says,
"Pull the triggers, niggers, we're with you all the way - just across the bay." Joni sounds like a rich aging denizen of Boulder or Berkeley who is full of righteous indignation. Like her 2002 trashing of Sheryl Crow, it sounds like the whining of a crone.

Well, Steve Earle and Foo Fighters will have to wait in the queue with P.J. Harvey, Springsteen, and Neil Young. What a torrent! (Incidentally, even though I always make fun of Rolling Stone and Pitchfork Media, I thought both music sources ranked these releases just about the way I would, though RS might have been too kind to Banhart.)