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Alabama - Songs Of Inspiration (their gospel record and its great--number 1 on the Billboard chart last week)

Have you heard their new gospel record, Songs of Inspiration II? I work in the music industry in Nashville, and we recorded a 16 piece string section on 3 songs at the beginning of the year. One was "Star Spangled Banner", which made it onto the album, and the other two were an original song "Pray Me Back Home" and a really nice arrangement of "Just As I Am". They had an instrumental section in the middle of "Just As I Am" where Randy Owen was hoping to play a clip of Billy Graham preaching, but it was looking like they would not be given permission to use the clip. I hope it crops up on another album sometime.

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Hugues   

An advance that delighted me yesterday: Greg Ashley's Painted Garden.

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Kyle   

Deerhunter - Cryptograms

Yikes. How have I missed this one up until now? Holy cow this thing is good, really good thing. Deerhunter are able to combine traditional the shoegaze/white noise bent and dress it up with a pop bent that goes down like a fine bottle of mead. It's a complex taste, but boy is it worth it. Where bands like Fennez or M83 frustrate me with their lack of warmth, Deerhunter makes this hazy wash of noise accessible to even the most novice of ears.

Patrick Wolf - the Magic Position

I hate to use terms like "thinking person's pop" to describe music because it sounds so elitist. However, I think that term applies to Patrick Wolf quite nicely. His deep vocals remind me of a Calvin Johnson, Jens Lekman, Beck, or Stephen Merritt. And like those aforementioned characters Wolf's music has a definite pop bent to it, but a dark undercurrent that tempers the exuberance and joy of songs such as "the Magic Position". Wolf combines electronic manupulation with flesh and blood songwriting to maximum effect hear. Good stuff indeed.

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James Sumner, who was the winter artist in residence here at the Department of Safety, directed

for Deerhunter during his residency. They're a pretty good introduction to that band.

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I think this album came out last year. But anyhow, a local (Ypsilanti) band called The Hummingbirds has really grabbed my attention lately.

The band I am in (Chrome Folk Barbeque) will be covering one or two of their songs.

Here's my favourite. Check out the clean Telecaster licks from Stephen Grant Wood:

Gonna Be Alright

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Greg P   

This week I'm enjoying Ryan Adams' Easy Tiger which is far from stunning, but at least solid all the way thru, which is more than I can say for a lot of the stuff he's put out in the past several years. It's definitely growing on me.

Black Moth Super Rainbow's Dandelion Gum is groovy and fun

Added: Just got Grails, Burning Off Impurities... To me, reminiscent of Cul de Sac with its droning middle eastern vibe, maybe a little too much so on the first couple listens. Put it on this afternoon and found myself getting pulled in. Very nice.

Edited by coltrane

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Cyrus Chestnut - Cyrus Chestnut Plays Elvis (advance, out October 9 on Koch). With a killer backing band, CHestnut--always an iconoclast but an accessible one-- on acoustic piano and Rhodes, with a solid quartet make real jazz of the late king of rock and roll.

Oooo! Alright! I'm a huge Chestnut fan, and my wife's a huge Elvis fan, making the chances of obtaining this one much higher than they'd otherwise be.

I bought Chestnut's last CD but haven't listened to it much (also on Koch? I think it was for another label). He's consistently excellent, but Revelation and Earth Stories remain old favorites of mine.

He'll always have a special place in our lives. My wife and I saw Chestnut and his then trio perform at a Methodist church in Georgetown on our second date.

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Thanks for all the great recommendations, Thom.

New stuff on the box that's either out, or coming soon that's not to be missed that just GETS to me:

Miles Davis: Complete On The Corner Sessions (6 CD box, out on Sony/LegacySept. 25). A Revelation. There is at least an hour and a half of completely unreleased music here if not more. Tracks are given in their unedited versions and other material recorded for it, previously released on Big Fun and Get Up With It is all compiled here. Sony claims this is all the unreleased Miles they have in terms of studio material. OK. Now for some box sets of the live tours from 71-75!!!!!!!!!!

The amount of Miles material in the vaults continues to astound me. That said, I'll probably pass on this one. This is a period of Miles' music that I can admire in small doses, but the original On The Corner was almost too much for me, and 6 CDs will definitely be overkill.

Joe Henry - Civilians. I like this record a lot. A whole lot. That saiud, I am having such a hard time separating it for the Loudon Wainright sessions since essentially the same band was used and it was recorded right around the same time. They feel like twins.

I love this record, although I kind of miss the horns that have been featured so prominently on the past few Joe Henry albums. But as a songwriter, Joe Henry has no rival. He's simply the best, and that song about Charlie Parker simply amazes me. Nobody writes about brokenness and conflicted humanity better than Joe Henry.

Marissa Nadler: Songs III - Bird On The Water (see my reviews at allmusic.com on this one and Gretchen Peters. I will say that this album may be a welcome surpise to a lot of A&F members. It's one of my year faves thus far.

Yep, absolutely wonderful. Nadler has been grouped with the "freak folk" geeks, and since that includes everybody from Joanna Newsom to Animal Collective, I wasn't sure what to expect. But her songs are lovely and sad, and her take on Leonard Cohen's "Famous Blue Raincoat" earns my utmost respect. It fits in seamlessly with the other songs on the album, and that's no small feat.

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I'll second Thom's recommendation of Blue Scholars. It's really well-crafted stuff. Everything i love about hiphop.

Edited by Holy Moly!

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Kyle   

Caribou - Andorra

I lost track of Caribou back when they (he) was called Manitoba and released an excellent shoegaze/laptop hybrid Up in Flames. While Up in Flames had a predictably big sound, Andorra is more texture than volume. It's a perfect summer haze of an album where the pastel tones create a fuzzy texture of light and sound. It starts off featuring a couple of killer tracks which then subtly begin to merge into one another creating a progressively cohesive album that's more about an overall feel than the individual songs. It works really well actually.

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opus   

Epic45 - May Your Heart Be The Map

Electronica-tinged post-rock that sometimes gets a little fey and precocious, but darn it all if I don't get struck by a particularly nostalgic and melancholy bug on songs like "The Stars In Spring" and "Summers First Breath". My review...

Piana - Eternal Castle

New full-length from Japanese singer/songwriter. It's a little all over the place, but the strongest moments -- icy electronic pieces full of cooing Japanese vocals a la M

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Hugues   

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If that's not worth hearing, I don't know what is. This album is better than their first two (which are the only other ones I know).

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Greg P   
Piana - Eternal Castle

New full-length from Japanese singer/songwriter. It's a little all over the place, but the strongest moments -- icy electronic pieces full of cooing Japanese vocals a la M

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Kyle   

Emma Pollock - Watch the Fireworks

I got this one off name recognition alone. While not obsessive, I greatly admired Pollock's work with the great Scottish group the Delgados, particularily her work on Hate, an underrated classic. While Firworks doesn't have quite the Dave Fridmann produced grandiosity of Hate and the album misses the wonderful male counterpoint Alun Woodwurd of the Delgados provided, this album nonetheless shines. Cut from the same cloth as later period Delgados, Fireworks is big but never colapses under its own wait, shines but is never too polished, bounces yet glides effortlessly, and intelligent but never pretensious.

Much like the Delgados I'm sure this will slide under the radar mostly unnoticed, which is too bad because it's worth more than a passing glance.

Edited by Kyle

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Just to prove that I really do listen to stuff besides Radiohead and Joe Henry... here's an assortment of stuff that's been on the box this week.

Maroon 5-- It Won't Be Soon Before Long

Buzz for this album built in a hurry and fizzled out just as fast, which is a shame-- the band obviously wanted this one to be a blockbuster, and they've certainly pulled out all the stops, crafting a slick, relentlessly entertaining pop album that's fun, funky, and loaded with monster hooks. It's one that I can only take in relatively small doses, though, because the songwriting is hackneyed and trite to the point of absurdity; songs about sex and failed romance are fine for this kind of record, but everything here is far too ernest. If only the lyrics had the same light touch that the music does. Still, Adam Levine proves to be an alluring, charismatic frontman and a grand entertainer, falling somewhere between Prince, Michael Jackson, and Justin Timberlake.

Robert Plant and Allison Krauss-- Raising Sand

Two legends team up with producer T-Bone Burnett and a crack studio band that includes some Joe Henry and Tom Waits regulars. Plant and Krauss give sultry, slow-burning readings of a number of vintage blues, country, rock, and folk songs-- sometimes with Plant playing Gram to Krauss' Emmylou-- and Burnett fills each track with smoke, keeping things measured and subdued. Sometimes it's a bit too restrained, in fact, but, more often than not, it really works, with the production giving the singers room to really explore the songs. And of course, what would an album like this be without at least one Tom Waits cover to give it some hipster cred? Krauss turns in a lovely, sensual reading of "Trampled Rose," a pained ballad buried in the middle of Waits' Real Gone album. Also delightful is "Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us," a brand new contribution from the iconoclastic Sam Phillips.

Linda Thompson-- Versatile Heart

Another living legend, Thompson-- one of the greatest living interpreters of traditional British folk music-- throws a fair ammount of honky-tonk into her latest, bringing musical traditions from both sides of the pond together for a heartfelt celebration of songcraft and the human voice. There's a Tom Waits song here, too-- a lilting take on "The Day After Tomorrow," a devastating protest song that's also culled from Real Gone-- as well as a a Rufus Wainwright song, a literate and humorous ode to "Beauty" that's theatrical without being hammy. There are plenty of originals here, too, and, whether she's doing British folk or classicist country, Thompson's voice fills each song with frailty, compassion, and quiet wisdom.

KT Tunstall-- Drastic Fantastic

The cover for this one is playful and flirtatious, gleeming with sparkle and sexy humor-- as a statement, it seems to say that this is an artist who doesn't take herself too seriously. It's a cheeky but fun album cover, but it also seems to belong with a different album. Tunstall dials down everything that gave her debut any character, instead focusing on overly ernest songwriting and formulaic pop production that feels like it's suffocating the artist, leaving her no room to even breathe, much less stretch her wings or have any fun.

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Also delightful is "Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us," a brand new contribution from the iconoclastic Sam Phillips.

... which, by the way, Sam herself has recorded, and it's been playing on her website for many months now.

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Greg P   
Robert Plant and Allison Krauss-- Raising Sand
I'll second this. It is very restrained and my main beef is that it's not the kind of album you can spin during the course of your day and really get into. I broke it in with a bottle of wine on my back porch, around 10:00 on a rainy night. In that setting it was absolutely inspired. Listening to on the train during the afternoon commute... it's a subdued meh. Nevertheless, Plant still sounds splendid and these are the kind of albums he should be making.

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Greg P   

Thom, i simply meant when you're pushing 60, Rock n Roll may not be the most flattering vehicle for you to be cruising around in.

Whether his new efforts are geared to roots music, country, or trad. blues makes no difference to me-- it's something other than Rawk, which for him at this time in his life, seems a very wise choice. I was never crazy about Plant's solo stuff, and I dont think any of it was necessarily crummy, but his pipes over the last ten years have become rather limited. His new album accepts this "handicap" and actually exploits it in a pretty remarkable way, IMO.

All that swill aside, I would still sell my soul for a ticket to the Zeppelin reunion show in November.

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Are there really ANY records artists SHOULD--or should NOT--be making?

Thom, I hear you. I think artists should make what they make. Some records work out, some don't. I cannot stand Robert Plant one bit, but some will like his ROCK albums and other his softer works. Critics in general loved the Pixies (as do I), but my favorite Frank Black-related album is the Cult of Ray...I may be the only person on the planet to say that, as far as I know. But that fact that Black MADE that album shouldn't be looked down upon.

But similarly, are there really any records listeners SHOULD or SHOULD NOT be listening to? Your beef with peoples' tastes here is worn on your sleeve--I can't disagree, really. If it's not singer-songwriter material, then it sometimes gets shunned by the bulk of the forum. But isn't that their choice? You get to listen to thousands of crazy albums a week, from neo-soul/death folk fusion to funk/glam/breakbeat/bubblegum grunge tossups or whatever. I honestly envy how diverse your tastes are. But aside from the few promo albums I get a year, I have a limited budget for music (and I'm guessing that might be more than some people here). If they're a Springsteen fan and want to buy the new Springsteen instead of something they've not heard of, why get worked up over the fact?

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Hugues   
I know a lot of people here prefer the whole singer-songwriter thing (I've often thought this part of forum should be called "Admiration For Mostly White People With Guitars Singing Songs About Love, Loss, God, and Being Vulnerable,")

Well, as for me, I observe this: I tried Battles Mirrored, the kind of music you don't find much in my collection, but I'm curious, so... I enjoyed it a bit upon the first few listens, since it's really impressive and all that, but after a while, it simply leaves me cold. I don't find emotion or joy in this music. If there does exist some emotion or joy or anything else that I should feel from it, I don't find the way. It may be a matter of knowledge.

Edited by Hugues

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opus   

The Spacious Mind - The Mind Of A Brother

Sprawling Swedish psych-rock a la Dungen, but way more out there.

Lycia - Cold

Reissue of the darkwave classic. Not something for everyone, even if you're a goth fan, but there's some lovely, albeit dark, stuff on here. Think Cocteau Twins meets The Cure's Pornography. (My review)

Weigl & Hoffmann - Examples Of A Medusa

Lovely cinematic ambient a la Craig Armstrong and Max Richter. It's only three songs, so you're left wanting more, but it is free for the taking. (My review)

Beautiful Leopard - How Long Will It Take?

More sprawling stuff, this time in the post-rock vein a la Do Make Say Think, but with some vaguely country vocals and stylings thrown in for good measure.

Plumerai - Without Number

Solid post-punk that's even better due to its Arcade Fire-esque eclecticism.

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That's an interesting notion, Thom--one I dig. Thinking back on all of the music that made me uncomfortable has stuck with me strongly: Tom Waits (my first exposure was the Alice]/i] / Blood Money combo), Sunny Day Real Estate's LP2, Afghan Whigs' Gentlemen, Big Star's Third, some of the wacky hard bop jazz album. The list goes on.

Speaking of new(ish) music, has anyone heard Jeremy Enigk's new album? I think it's called the Missing Link...I was kind of surprised he had finished something up so quickly after last year's World Waits, but then I noticed that half of the songs are rerecordings of stuff from his prior album. I haven't heard it yet, but as a fan, I'm intrigued. Sort of.

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Hugues   

Hey Thom, I loved reading your post above about where you come from, the musics you listened to, etc.

That's a luck you had I guess, and you're also blessed with an insatiable curiosity, which helps.

"picking up bits and pieces from across the sonic universe" ---> nicely said.

now listening: The Raindrops :) (OK, that's not new stuff, but it's new to me!)

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Kyle   
Emma Pollock - Watch the Fireworks

I got this one off name recognition alone. While not obsessive, I greatly admired Pollock's work with the great Scottish group the Delgados, particularily her work on Hate, an underrated classic. While Firworks doesn't have quite the Dave Fridmann produced grandiosity of Hate and the album misses the wonderful male counterpoint Alun Woodwurd of the Delgados provided, this album nonetheless shines. Cut from the same cloth as later period Delgados, Fireworks is big but never colapses under its own wait, shines but is never too polished, bounces yet glides effortlessly, and intelligent but never pretensious.

Much like the Delgados I'm sure this will slide under the radar mostly unnoticed, which is too bad because it's worth more than a passing glance.

After more than a few people came out of the woodwork to declare their love of Stars In Our Bedroom After the War, I thought I would resurrect my thoughts about this album again because in many ways Stars and the Delgados (who featured Emma) are cut from the same cloth. I just think the Delgados do it better. I also think Emma's solo work is better that Stars new album. And even if you don't agree with me in the end, Emma Pollock is an artist with an album that is worth paying attention to if you love pristine and grand pop statements.

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