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Tuesday, 03 February 2009 |  Written by Matt Fink  | 
Al Green - Lay It Down Though it seems to be generally true that most musicians peak creatively in their mid-to-late 20s, settle into their craft in their 30s, become stagnant in their 40s, and fade into irrelevancy shortly thereafter, soul singers are the only exception to the rule. The ultimate stylists, soul singers from Solomon Burke to Candie Payne to Sharon Jones have proven that such artists only gain gravitas and a greater depth of emotion, as if age informs their ability to wring out the desperation and ache essential to their music. But while he has aged exceptionally well, with two solid if unspectacular albums released in the past five years, Al Green has yet to create the album that fully utilizes his range as a performer and vocalist. That is, until Lay It Down.Produced by the Roots’ ?uestlove and James Poyser, Green’s third ...
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Tuesday, 03 February 2009 |  Written by Jonathan Easley  | 
The Black Angels - Directions To See a Ghost The Black Angels nod to all the American psychedelic touchstones of the late ‘60s to early ‘70s. They hail from Austin, Texas (as did Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators), their sound channels that period’s drug-soaked side of San Francisco (Jefferson Airplane et al), and they take their name from a Velvet Underground song. The concept might not be original, but like the Brian Jonestown Massacre their sound is wholly unique insofar as true psych-rock is rarely mimicked this well. Unlike the Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Black Angels stay deeply entrenched in the cold, dark sound of the era, never veering into lazy summertime strum or populist folk.  One is also reminded of the early- to mid-‘80s British scene, the Spacemen 3 and their album “Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs to.” One of my friends recently ...
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Monday, 08 September 2008 |  Written by Matt Fink  | 
Spiritualized - Songs in A & E Never a particularly prolific artist, Jason Pierce was, after 15 years and four full-length studio albums, nonetheless, burned out. Having completed a critically acclaimed exploration of gospel, blues and roots rock variants with 2003’s Amazing Grace, by the summer of 2005 nothing was sounding right. In an attempt to get outside of his songwriting persona, he was writing a series of songs based on character-driven vignettes, but nothing was adding up to an album – just a bunch of disparate pieces. To make matters far worse, just as he was getting ready to pull the plug on the album, he nearly died himself, ending up in the hospital with pneumonia that left him weak and skeletal and with little ambition to make music. But only then did he see the connecting thread for the album -- death. Having never shied away ...
Editor's rating: 
Friday, 08 August 2008 |  Written by Jonathan Easley  | 
Hercules and Love Affair - Hercules and Love Affair The thing about a scene is that it requires a moment, and a prerequisite for that moment is a group of people jacked together to unveil the existence of some phenomenon that always seems obvious in hindsight.  Disco’s moment has reanimated accordingly, although it begs a few questions.  Like, how exactly did a soulful, woulda-been Warhol-scenester reincarnate to lay vocals for the next big dance outfit, at the critical hour when house was looking to fill its remaining vacancies before proceeding to its next phase of evolution?  And how is there a disco-revival amongst a generation that was too young to experience it firsthand, and perhaps more shockingly, grew up in a time when disco was manifestly un-cool?  The fact that disco could uncover itself with such aplomb in 2008 is evidence of a paradigm-ic shift in the way music ...
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Friday, 08 August 2008 |  Written by Matt Fink  | 
Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes Largely a reaction against the beautiful and well-produced sounds of the ‘60s and ‘70s, punk rock championed the bad vocalist, giving highest priority to the integrity of the performance and generally equating good singing with selling out. The indie rock movement that was born from the ashes of punk rock largely continued that dictum, and the last 30 years have been filled with vocalists who were so blessed with the common touch that they could have been pulled off any street corner in the United States, with vocals that emphasized energy and idiosyncracies over the ability to stay in tune or produce a vocal range of more than three or four notes. But as the last 10 years have brought indie rock increasingly in line with mainstream aesthetics; powerhouse vocalists and better harmonies have come back into style, leading to ...
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