Beachwood Sparks: The Tarnished Gold

Beachwood Sparks
The Tarnished Gold

June 26, 2012
Sub Pop

“The SoCal indie cowboys deliver an album completely displaying musical, songwriting, and repertory growth from their critically acclaimed self-titled debut”All Music Guide

“The Sparks take the nascent country rock of their obvious influence and extraploate every last ounce of plangent guitar chime and yearing vocal polyphony until they ring afresh.”Mojo

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Some albums were made to be played on a Saturday night. The Tarnished Gold was meant to be played on a Sunday afternoon. Listening to Beachwood Sparks’ first album in 11 years is like being under cobalt blue skies and smelling the night-blooming jasmine on a perfect spring day in Los Angeles.

The world has caught up to Beachwood Sparks since they came out of nowhere in 2000 with their self-titled debut album, bringing new life to what Gram Parsons famously described as “cosmic American music,” and recapturing L.A.‘s laidback but vibrant heyday back in the late ’60s and early ’70s. At the time, this kind of harmony-rich, irony-free music was rare. After their second album, 2002’s trippier Once We Were Trees, and the decidedly offbeat 2003 EP Make the Cowboy Robots Cry, Beachwood Sparks called it quits. But during the subsequent half decade, the indie music scene began to change with the appearance, and wholesale acceptance, of multi-voiced throwback groups from Fleet Foxes to Bon Iver to Grizzly Bear. Clearly, the time is right for an album that stands as the purest expression of this hallowed form to appear in the 21st century, as the planets at long last align for this single-minded band.

The Tarnished Gold is the work of the classic Beachwood Sparks lineup: singer/guitarist Chris Gunst, singer/bassist Brent Rademaker, singer/multi-instrumentalist Farmer Dave Scher, and drummer Aaron Sperske, with invaluable support from guitarist and longtime friend Ben Knight (The Tyde). For the sessions, the band added guitarists Knight and Neal Casal (solo artist and former member of Ryan Adams and the Cardinals), Dan Horne on pedal steel, Gunst’s wife Jen Cohen, Sparks’ very first drummer Jimi Hey, Brent’s brother Darren (leader of The Tyde) and L.A. indie-rock maestro Ariel Pink. Once We Were Trees producer Thom Monahan returned to his familiar spot behind the console.

Father John Misty: Fear Fun

Father John Misty
Fear Fun

May 1, 2012
Sub Pop

“[Fear Fun is] packed with sardonic, self-effacing songs that recall the finest traditions of harmony-soaked West Coast folk-and-country influenced rock’n’roll.”Uncut

“A captivating listen.” Magnet

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When discussing ‘Father John Misty’, Tillman paraphrases Philip Roth: ’It’s all of me and none of me, if you can’t see that, you won’t get it’. What I call it is totally arbitrary, but I like the name. You’ve got to have a name. I never got to choose mine.”

He goes on, “‘People who make records are afforded this assumption by the culture that their music is coming from an exclusively personal place, but more often than not what you hear are actually the affectations of an ’alter-ego’ or a cartoon of an emotionally heightened persona,” says Josh Tillman, who has been recording/releasing solo albums since 2003 and who recently left Seattle’s Fleet Foxes after playing drums from 2008-2011. “That kind of emotional quotient isn’t sustainable if your concern is portraying a human-being made up of more than just chest-beating pathos. I see a lot of rampant, sexless, male-fantasy everywhere in the music around me. I didn’t want any alter-egos, any vagaries, fantasy, escapism, any over-wrought sentimentality. I like humor and sex and mischief. So when you think about it, it’s kind of mischievous to write about yourself in a plain-spoken, kind of explicitly obvious way and call it something like ‘Misty’. I mean, I may as well have called it ‘Steve’”.

Musically, Fear Fun consists of such disparate elements as Waylon Jennings, Harry Nilsson, Arthur Russell, “All Things Must Pass,” and “Physical Graffiti,” often within the same song. Tillman’s voice has never been better and often sounds like Roy Orbison, “The Caruso of Rock”, at his most joyous, while the music maintains a dark, mysterious and yet conversely playful, almost Dionysian quality. Lyrically, his absurdist fever dreams of pain and pleasure elicit, in equal measures, the blunt descriptive power of Bukowski or Brautigan, the hedonist-philosophy of Oscar Wilde and the dried-out wit of Loudon Wainwright III.

Deer Tick: Divine Providence

Deer Tick
Divine Providence

October 24, 2011
Loosemusic

“If Deer Tick’s first couple of albums got the Rhode Island band branded as an alt-country act, their latest is a drunk leaning into your face and yelling, “You don’t know me, man!”” 7/10Rolling Stone

“It’s all served with such a knowing grin that you can’t help but love it” ★★★★Uncut

‘Divine Providence’ is the Rhode Island quintet’s fourth album in just five years, and is the first release recorded in their home state. It’s a follow-up to their fantastic ‘Black Dirt Sessions’, which New York magazine called “flat-out great,” and inspired the Late Show with David Letterman to give the band its network television debut.

After years of critics mainly praising them for their “folk” and “country” sounds and not touching on their other musical styles, the band wanted to make a record that was true to their live set (which has gained some notoriety): raw, loud, heartfelt, and completely uninterested in whatever the hell the rest of the music industry is up to. The results are unlike anything you’ve heard on a Deer Tick album.

To produce this record, the band recruited the team of Adam Landry and Justin Collins, who produced McCauley’s side-project Middle Brother’s debut album.  Distorted guitars aplenty, guitarist Ian O’Neil and drummer Dennis Ryan take lead vocal duties for the first time on record, you can practically smell the sweat and the beer! And even hear a guitar or two break somewhere in there! It’s got a little Exile, it’s got a little In Utero, it’s got a little Nilsson Schmilsson, but it’s 100% Deer-Fucking-Tick in their purest, and most carefree form.

The songs are there. The delivery is in your face. There’s no studio magic. There’s no hiding the fact that Deer Tick is just five regular dudes. This record may rattle your thoughts and it may make you think differently about Deer Tick, but at least they didn’t make the same album four times in a row, right?

Cowboy Junkies: The Wilderness – The Nomad Series – Vol.4

Cowboy Junkies
The Wilderness – The Nomad Series – Vol.4

March 26, 2012
Proper Records UK

“Free from vague thematic restraints, this volume works as the most immediately listenable and comprehensible of the Nomad Series and stands alone as another strong volume of the craft Cowboy Junkies have been honing for years.”All Music Guide

“The series is all that they are-accomplished, graceful, thoughtful and poignant. And The Wilderness is its fitting conclusion.”Paste Magazine

Cowboy Junkies are releasing The Wilderness, Volume 4 of The Nomad Series, marking the conclusion of an ambitious schedule of four releases over an 18-month period.

The title, The Wilderness, in some odd way defines what these songs were actually “about”: fragility, emptiness, loneliness, beauty, chance, loss, desperation, the delicate balancing act that makes up a life

Michael Timmins sums up the band’s motivation for taking on such a massive project as The Nomad Series quite simply. “The main reason for wanting to do it,” he says, “is that, as we steam through our twenty-fifth year, we feel that we have the energy and inspiration to pull it off.”

Bonnie Raitt: Slipstream

Bonnie Raitt
Slipstream

April 10, 2012
Proper Records

“It’s mood music with a razor edge, pain fronting as bliss, delivered by a vet who understands that the blues are often about just that.”Rolling Stone

“Slipstream relies on Bonnie;’s voice and slide playing–and, above all, her felicitous ability to pick the right song.”Uncut

Bonnie Raitt’s new album “Slipstream” is daring, bluesy, and steeped with the inimitable slide guitar and soulful vocals that could only be hers. “Slipstream” marks her first new album in seven years.

While most of “Slipstream” is self-produced and features Raitt’s longtime touring band, four of the album’s songs were helmed by celebrated producer Joe Henry (Allen Toussaint, Solomon Burke) and showcase his usual crew of extraordinary musicians. Additional guests include Bill Frisell, Al Anderson (formerly of NRBQ), Ireland’s Paul Brady, and Maia Sharp. The album’s twelve tracks feature Raitt’s renditions of songs by such luminaries as Bob Dylan, Joe Henry, and Loudon Wainwright III.

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