REVIEW: Various Artists: Ghost Brothers of Darkland County (2013)

I’ve been promoting this one pretty hard, I know, but because it’s my first (and hopefully not last) review for Paste Magazine, I’m really excited about it.  Here’s a snippet:

“It took more than a decade to get off, but Ghost Brothers of Darkland County is some kind of great record. Its aspirations are high, as are the issues and ideas to which it speaks. In pop music, there’s no surer path to failure than such pretension. But on this album, the music meets and sometimes exceeds those ambitions. Mellencamp has called Ghost Brothers of Darkland County the ‘Sgt. Pepper of Americana.’ A hefty claim, perhaps even arrogant, but at its best this record lives up to it.”

Various Artists: Ghost Brothers of Darkland County (review) – Paste Magazine

REVIEW: Laura Marling: Once I Was an Eagle (2013)

Two reviews in one day at Pretty Much Amazing – here’s my take on Laura Marling’s excellent fourth LP, Once I Was an Eagle.  

Once I Was an Eagle is a singular achievement: a haunting record, peopled with aural ghosts that come gradually crawling from out of the grooves. While it might take a while for them to materialize, once they do you’ll never be rid of them – and you’ll be glad to have such interesting company.”

Laura Marling: Once I Was an Eagle (review) – prettymuchamazing.com

REVIEW: Queens of the Stone Age: … Like Clockwork (2013)

In my first piece for Pretty Much Amazing, I tackle the latest release from Queens of the Stone Age.  Spoiler alert: I really didn’t like it.

“This is all well-played stuff, occasionally expert, and most of the songs, even the most indulgent, boast minor redemptive moments – a cool guitar riff here, a nice vocal trick there. Also, to their credit, they’re able to work up and sustain a steady level of trippy menace over the course of the album. But the fact remains: these minor virtues aside, …Like Clockwork is a droning, incoherent endeavor, and it simply doesn’t reward the attention it’s asking for.”

Queens of the Stone Age: … Like Clockwork (review) – prettymuchamazing.com

REVIEW: Della Mae: This World Oft Can Be (2013)

You can read my review of Della Mae’s debut LP for Rounder, This World Oft Can Be, at PopMatters.  To give you a taste:

“There’s nary a clinker to be found here, and the whole thing maintains a consistency of quality that would be the envy of many established artists. What’s most impressive, though, is not that Della Mae has succeeded, but that the band has done it and made it seem so easy. There are no signs of the self-consciousness and strain that mar so many roots-based releases. Instead, This World Oft Can Be is the rarest kind of success: the past grounds it, sure, but so too does the present, and the result illuminates both.”

Jason Isbell: “Traveling Alone” (2013)

I’m interviewing Jason Isbell this afternoon, the occasion being the upcoming release of his new solo album, Southeastern (due out June 11).  It’s a remarkable record, and it sounds to me like his finest  yet.  Full commentary will be forthcoming (the interview via PopMatters, and the album review via Paste), but suffice it to say that it’s on my short list for best of the year.

“Traveling Alone” is the first single, and it’s indicative of the album’s quality – unsparing in its lyrical approach, but musically gorgeous, featuring some tremendous fiddle work by Amanda Isbell (Jason’s wife).  Check it out!

Neko Case: “That’s Who I Am” (2013)

I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but I’m completely unfamiliar with Neko Cases’s work.  I’ve heard the name, of course, and I can’t tell you how many friends and acquaintances have recommended her, but I just haven’t taken the time to seek her out.  This cut, from the forthcoming Ghost Brothers of Darkland County soundtrack, was enough to convince me that I need to.  It’s a lovely number, and her cooing, confident vocal suits the track just about perfectly.  Choice couplet: “I can be as nice as pie whenever I mean to. / Put my  hand in your front pockets and tighten up your screws.”  Highly recommended.

Welcome!

Welcome, and thanks for visiting my site!  I’ll keep this fairly brief, as introductory blog posts are usually about as exciting to read as paint can labels.

In addition to links to my published writing (a complete list of which can be found be here at “Publications and CV”), I’ll also be hashing out brief blog-style commentaries.  Normally, these will be music-related, but I do reserve the right to go off on wild tangents (movies, current events, daily annoyances, what have you).  Of course, feedback is always encouraged!

If you’d like to get in touch with me for any reason, see the “Contact” page for a variety of options.

… and that should about do it!  Thanks for reading, and here’s hoping you have a great holiday weekend!