Tag Archives: Bridesmaids

The Posies: Blood/Candy

Another 2010 Bridesmaid…very good, but missed the Top 25…

The Posies have been around so long and have broken up and reformed so often that it’s probably bad form to call Blood/Candy a comeback album. Isn’t that what we were supposed to call Every Kind of Light? But with their solo and Big Star efforts now put aside, Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer decided to revisit their oldest muse – each other – and reanimate a collaboration that has served them since they were teenagers. Camping out in the studio to live and breathe the music, the core of Blood/Candy was created in ten days and then tinkered with via various studios, diverse instrumentation and vocal collaborators (Kay Hanley, Hugh Cornwell).

The results, although not quite derivative, are that many of the songs have a familiarity that can’t be avoided when a band’s songwriters have such widespread collaborations. The structure of the fragmented “Licenses To Hide”, oddly enough, sounds like a Billy Joel epic from The Stranger, albeit sung by angels. And while it is not a well-known song, those who know The Odds’ “Love of Minds” will do a spit-take upon hearing the refrain and rhythm of “Cleopatra Street”.

Video: “For The Ashes

“For The Ashes” lets them frame the verses in Crosby/Nash harmonies before morphing into spacey falsettos, just as “Accidental Architecture” uses those same vocal icons to launch a wordy, jazzy melody into an infectious chorus. And staying on Nash point, the boys had to be listening to old Hollies records before penning the album’s best hook in “She’s Coming Down Again”. Likewise, Beach Boys fans will no doubt be struck by the vocal coda of “Enewetak”.

The songwriting is strong, and as one would expect, the vocals and harmonies are exquisite; both Stringfellow and Auer are in top form. There will be those who still point at Dear 23 or Frosting On The Beater as the apex of their career, but slotting this one in close proximity would not be a mistake. Whether or not this is a cohesive effort from a newly focused band or a collection of tracks assembled for the occasional statement, Blood/Candy is – as the title suggests – a showcase for both their delicate fragility and their powerful pop presence.

***

This review was originally printed in Bucketful of Brains.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten 2010 Bridesmaids

Putting together a “best of” list is hard for me, because there’s so much out there to enjoy every year and many albums appeal to me in different ways. Lists are subjective, of course (despite what Rolling Stone may insist) and try as I might I can’t put six pounds of stuff into a five pound bag. So while I consider the Top Ten an honor, the near misses – Bridesmaids, as I’ve been calling them – are no slouches either.

To beat the tired drum again, anyone who is claiming that there is no great music being made simply isn’t trying hard enough to find it. I’m out there beating the bushes constantly and I can’t keep up with it; certainly even a cursory attempt to widen one’s horizons would be richly rewarded (there’s a bunch of links at right for starters). And as always I welcome the emails from readers that start “have you heard…” as they often open new doors for me as well.

So this week, in no particular order, let me present Ten 2010 Bridesmaids – albums that didn’t make the Top Ten but weren’t far off. When I post the full “best of” lists in January these will certainly be there, so give a listen and be rewarded! (Amazon links included – many on sale right now!)

And on this TGIF Friday I’m especially thankful.

01) Peter Wolf – Midnight Souveniers…Like fine wine, Wolf just gets better and better with age. A far cry from his kinetic J. Geils frontman image, Pete has quietly entered the small plateau of artists perpetuating organic, honest music for the ages. A musical archivist flexing his talents.

02) Smash Palace – 7…If the cover art’s nod to Revolver doesn’t tip you off, let me. Smash Palace is in the upper tier of powerpop bands with traces of Cheap Trick, The Beatles, Tom Petty and Badfinger in its mix but a fresh and original sound. Solid songwriting, incredible vocals, songs that are pure ear candy. Radio’s loss; your gain.

03) Paul Thorn – Pimps and Preachers…”If I could be a tear/rolling down your cheek/and died on your lips/my life would be complete”. Holy shit. I’m new to Thorn’s world, but this is a gritty brew of John Hiatt, Warren Zevon, Bob Seger and Alejandro Escovedo. I am on board now.

04) The Master Plan – Maximum Respect…You were so sure that you didn’t get a record from The Del Lords, The Fleshtones or The Dictators in 2010. Well, you were wrong! The collaborative side project is back for a second album and as you might expect, it kicks ass! If “BBQ” doesn’t get you hopping, you are a zombie.

05) Teenage Fanclub – Shadows…Back after a five-year break and sounding like it was a day. Fannies know what to expect, for the uninitiated, think a sophisticated pop blend of XTC, Big Star and some classic California sunny pop (Beach Boys, CSN). A little subdued for some, I prefer to call it atmospheric.

06) New Pornographers – Together…The phrase “greater than the sum of its parts” sets the bar very high when talking about this collaborative unit, but damned if I don’t find every one of their albums irresistible. Any band that can make whistling as cool as a snapping snare drum is okay by me.

07) Graham Parker – Imaginary Television…Another guy who just defies the calendar and continues to pump out great songs; he’s a better singer, songwriter and guitar player now than in his popular prime. Also be sure to pick up his live set with The Figgs.

08) Deadstring Brothers – Sao Paulo…Imagine the Gram Parsons / Keith Richards sessions in the Stones’ golden era were invaded by Ronnie Wood from The Faces. Wine flowed. Tape rolled. Absolute gospel – rock – country blues bliss.

09) The Hold Steady – Heaven Is Whenever…Just missed…I thought the personnel change would impair their urgency and their passion but they are as good as ever. The first five songs are absolutely perfect and the album would be worth it if it ended there.

10) Nick Curran – Reform School Girl…I wasn’t a follower of Curran but damned if he isn’t channeling Little Richard, Phil Spector, Fats Domino, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and The Sonics on this album. This is a party whittled down and stuffed in a jewel case; besides – how can you not buy an album with a title like this one?

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2008: Bridesmaids, Part 1

Bridesmaids?

Much like the Close But No Cigar list contains my quick takes on albums that didn’t make it to my “best of” list this year (that will probably slot somewhere south of #40 on the list when all is said and done), the Bridesmaids didn’t make it either. But they were a lot closer, and most probably were on the Top 25 in pencil at one point.  Music is subjective, and my lists morph over time as some albums grow and some fade, so this is really a snapshot.

But enough with the caveats – these are worthy records, and the names may put a knowing smile on your face or send you Googling for sound clips. I’m hoping that you find an artist or three that knocks your socks off and/or rediscover something that you passed on earlier.

Here are five for today, in no particular order. More will be posted in the near future…

Foam at the mouth

Foam at the mouth

 

Frank Bango:  The Sweet Songs Of Decay

Bango’s fourth album is just what I hoped for and expected; a wonderfully vibrant platter of thought provoking pop songs sung with earnest conviction. His voice is eerily similar to Elvis Costello on the upbeat/up-tempo songs (“International Sign For Sorry” could fool a Costello fan), but when singing more somber, pensive material (“Don’t Be A Shy Nurse”) it’s almost a calming stage whisper. It works both ways; the buoyant “Napoleon Again” and “Summerdress” will hook you immediately, where a piano ballad like “When A Plane Goes Down” will cause you to stop what you are doing and pay attention.

Credit must also go to the wonderful lyrics of Richy Vesecky. As appealing and exuberant as “Summerdress” is, it’s only heightened by turns of phrase like “and then came the winter coats / like a symphony of sour notes” (followed, of course, by strings playing out of tune!) And with Ed Stasium helping with the mix, the clarity and breadth of the instrumentation surrounds you like a warm blanket. After twelve songs that find hope in loneliness, love within loss, life in death and child-like innocence in our adult trappings, the album ends with three minutes of chirping birds, as if to cleanse your mental palette before returning you to your life, already in progress…

 

The Reducers:  Guitars, Bass and Drums

No one will ever accuse The Reducers of staying up all night writing the lyrics of “Yeah Yeah”, but in less than two minutes it will tell you everything you need to know about why they’re a timeless rock’n’roll band. And if that simple call to arms doesn’t do it, track two asks you flat out, “don’t you want to rock”? And if that doesn’t do it for you…well, don’t even waste your time with the nine other tunes on this terrific album. Take it out of the player, give it to someone who has a pulse, and go lie down and die. Stop sucking our oxygen. You don’t deserve to make it all the way to “My Problem”, among the best songs they’ve ever recorded – and that is a huge compliment.

Yeah, they’re slipping a little Who into “Meltdown”, and yeah, you’ll conjure up the grittier pub bands like Dr. Feelgood on “Stop It Baby”, but that’s only natural osmosis after rocking bars for thirty years. Still together, still touring, still kicking ass, and thankfully still making albums so people like me can rock vicariously through them.

click here to continue reading the full article…

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