michael gallucci

ALBUM REVIEW – DAWES

In album review on 04/25/2013 at 8:33 am

dawes

Dawes

Stories Don’t End

(HUB)

It’s gotten to the point where all of the new-millennium folk rockers are hard to tell apart. Who has time to sift through the small differences that separate the Low Anthem from Fleet Foxes from Blitzen Trapper from Middle Brother (a side project formed by members of Dawes, Deer Tick, and Delta Spirit, who all belong here too)? Any one of these bands pretty much fits all of your new-millennium folk-rock needs. They all sound like they’d be right at home snorting coke off a bearskin rug in some Laurel Canyon cabin circa 1975. And they all sound like the past 30-plus years of music passed them by.

Dawes frontman Taylor Goldsmith even pals around with Jackson Browne (who showed up on their second album), giving his Los Angeles-based band a leg up over their peers. But Goldsmith isn’t too fond of the retro label, so he packed his band, headed to North Carolina, and enlisted producer Jacquire King–who’s worked with Kings of Leon, Norah Jones, and Tom Waits–to catapult Dawes into the future … or at least into the early ‘80s.

But Kings of Leon, Norah Jones, and even Tom Waits these days aren’t exactly on the cutting edge of new music. And Stories Don’t End isn’t exactly a big leap forward for Dawes. In fact, the warm smell of weed and the laid-back vibe of pre-Reagan tranquility permeate the record. There’s nothing urgent, groundbreaking, or remotely exciting about it.

If anything, King’s stifled production gives Stories Don’t End a stale aftertaste. He mutes rather than warms the band’s cozy tones and rarely encourages Dawes to stray outside of their comfort zone. The opening track, “Just Beneath The Surface,” sounds so much like one of Browne’s forgettable songs from Lawyers In Love that it too becomes instantly forgettable. Things don’t pick up much from there. “From A Window Seat” coasts along a shuffling rhythm that recalls Laurel Canyon’s definition of “funky,” “Someone Will” is all finger-picking acoustic blandness, and the title track makes five minutes seem like 15.

Stories Don’t End picks up the pace a couple of times, most notably in the piercing guitar riff that stabs throughout the otherwise blah “Most People” and in “From The Right Angle,” which features rolling organ, pathfinder piano, and Goldsmith’s snuggest, most soulful vocal. But Laurel Canyon soul is a relative and rare thing. Finding it in Dawes’ nostalgia trip is even rarer.

EELS – ALBUM REVIEW

In album review on 02/05/2013 at 2:06 pm

Eels

Eels

Wonderful, Glorious

(E Works/Vagrant)

Now that Mark Oliver Everett has put Eels’ trilogy of concept albums about lust, love, and loss behind him, he can get back to what he’s done best over the past 20 years: air out his messed-up life for the whole world to hear.

“I guess you could say that I had issues,” Everett sings on “New Alphabet.” “But it’s looking good, I dug my way out / I’m changing up what the story’s about.” That pretty much sums up Wonderful, Glorious’ worldview. Having documented nearly every aspect of his childhood and troubled-artist years on record, as well as in an autobiography, Everett turns the corner on this relatively rosy, but no less ambitious, record that plays like a soundtrack of his post-trilogy life.

The 2009-10 triple play of Hombre Loco, End Times, and Tomorrow Morning hit like a torrent of pent-up emotions. Between the sex and heartbreak, Everett seemed to have found some sort of balance in his often-twisted existence. For all of his bleak discourses on suicide, self-doubt, and mental illness over the years, he barely had time for life’s simpler and more carnal pleasures. The trilogy was a long time coming.

Wonderful, Glorious once again chronicles the everyday struggles of Everett, who’s written about everything from family deaths to his bouts with depression to the long and occasionally bumpy road to recovery. But he sounds more at peace this time. As he sings on the distorted, bulldozing blues ditty “Peach Blossom,” “You gotta love what’s happening here.”

Still, Eels’ 10th album doesn’t sound all that different than the ones that preceded it. Everett and his band mix jagged alt-rock and murky swamp-pop with bluesy shuffles and fractured art-rock. The opening “Bombs Away,” which comes off like Tom Waits heading into one hell of a reckless weekend, contrasts with “I Am Building A Shrine,” a dirge-like meditation on his inevitable death. Total recklessness gives way to cautious reflection. It’s all part of Everett’s wonderful, glorious plan to reboot, one small step at a time. He gets it just about right.

A.V. Club

JIM JAMES – ALBUM REVIEW

In album review on 02/05/2013 at 2:04 pm

jim-james

Jim James

Regions of Light and Sound of God

(ATO)

Who’s to say where a My Morning Jacket album ends and a Jim James solo album begins? The 34-year-old frontman for the Kentucky rockers has piloted the increasingly spaced-out band since their 1999 debut. He’s recorded a few projects outside of the group (most notably, a George Harrison tribute EP under the name Yim Yames), but his proper solo debut, ‘Regions of Light and Sound of God,’ does everything a solo album is supposed to — including giving the artist an opportunity to roam outside of his natural bounds.

Thing is, James already roams quite a bit in My Morning Jacket. He’s tried on everything from weepy alt-country to guitar-powered indie rock to time-warping psychedelia to cowboy funk. And with each passing album, he’s gotten more ambitious. On ‘Regions of Light and Sound of God,’ he scales back, stripping down arrangements and playing all of the instruments himself. But it’s still weird and epic in its own way.

The intro to the album’s opening track, ‘State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U),’ sounds like an outtake from My Morning Jacket’s 2011 album ‘Circuital.’ But the intergalactic symphony soon yields spare piano notes and James’ hushed vocal slinking over rumbling bass and live, vaguely hip-hop drums. That genre-jumping formula is used throughout ‘Regions of Light and Sound of God,’ from the globetrotting AM Gold of ‘Of the Mother Again’ to ‘A New Life,’ which starts as a finger-plucked ballad before veering into 1950s radio pop.

Best is ‘Know Til Now,’ which features ‘70s disco drums, ghostly backing vocals that double back on themselves and synths that can’t even be bothered to sound like real horns. It’s like a mid-tempo Curtis Mayfield jam updated for post-millennium stoners.

Even with James’ hazy visions of old-school R&B, ‘Regions of Light and Sound of God’ plays like a more intimate version of My Morning Jacket — warmer, closer and cuddlier. The band’s full-throttle guitar freak-outs are missed, and some of the LP’s less-ambitious tracks (like the John Lennon-cribbing ‘Actress’) feel empty. But the lone-wolf howls come through loud and clear.

Diffuser.fm