Tag Archives: The Byrds

New Album! Long Arms

Okay, not brand new, but a late 2010 indie is likely new to you.

Long Arms To Hold You is primarily the work of Richmond singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist James Menefee, who apparently did flesh it out in a band format using the moniker Long Arms. This debut album is an infectious swirl of Americana, folk and power pop; the songs are very well-written and the collaboration with producer Pedro Alda yielded an exquisite blend of instruments to support it.

Listen to these songs. Indie my ass.

Video: “Strung Out On You

Judging by the lyrics, Menefee must have been pretty despondent at the time, because the lyrics are confessional and desperate – the dude is hurting. Yet the music is sweet, buoyant and happy, an odd juxtaposition that not many bands can pull off well.

Song like “Strung Out On You“, “Kiss The Bottle” and “So Long And Thanks For The Toothbrush” (that last title is brilliant!) are a tiptoe through the ashes of a break-up. I hear everything from The Byrds to The Jayhawks to The Old 97s in Menefee’s wanting vocals. “The Ballad Of Joni and James” is what “Livin’ On A Prayer” or “Jack And Diane” could have sounded like if Bon Jovi or John Mellencamp had spent any time writing the words.

Video: “Downtown Dreams

This is a massive breath of fresh air and you need to hear this album.

Listen and buy at Amazon

Long arms on Facebook and MySpace

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Blast From The Past: Wilco

Tangents are wonderful things…

While reading the Morgan Taylor interview the other day, I noticed that he’d opened a lot of shows for Wilco. That made me pull out Being There and Summerteeth; both those records sound perfect when Spring is trying to shake off the doldrums and give you a warm day or two. and despite my town setting its all time record for rain during the month of April, birds and buds and ants are telling me that little liar groundhog’s ruse is almost over.

In other words, my review of Summerteeth from 1999 in…

When asked about his plans for Wilco after Being There had caught people off guard, Jeff Tweedy hinted that the band would most likely take another unexpected turn and create “a twisted pop record“. Let it never be said that Tweedy is not a man of his word.

Once again self-produced by the band (Tweedy, Jay Bennett, John Stirratt and Ken Coomer), Summerteeth thrives on the juxtaposition of introspective, sometimes dense, lyrical wordplay fleshed out in a rainbow of musical style. There are several songs that will immediately strike the listener as upbeat, sing-along melodies, yet underneath lurk images of loneliness, confusion and unfulfilled dreams.

Video: “Candyfloss

Candyfloss” jumps out of the speakers with a bouncy, 60s pop calliope beat, yet Tweedy’s confessional says otherwise: “I’m the boy who looks excited/I’m the boy who’se gonna fall apart…I’m the boy who eats his heart out…” . Likewise, the opener, “Can’t Stand It” is a groove rocker but boasts a chorus that states “our dreams will never be answered again“.

Via Chicago” is one of the few that matches sonic pulse with lyrical imagery. Slow and deliberate, the opening line is as disturbing as the distorted, feedback-laden guitar solo that cradles the fade-out: “Dreamed about killing you again last night / and it felt all right to me…”. Then – just as your heart and brain are splattered across the floor – “ELT (Every Little Thing)” rockets out of the speakers like the hit single it should be, a cousin to Bowie’sHeroes” filtered through The Byrds. It’s another song of lost opportunity or maybe Fate’s warning, but which? Hopeful or hopeless? Tweedy’s deft pen leaves that open to your imagination, and depending upon your mood, it will be either.

Video: “ELT (Every Little Thing)

The title track, like “Candyfloss” and “ELT“, will no doubt pump out of radios all summer long. No matter that the subject is denial about the rut that his life has become; the infectious refrain will have you singing along with the “ooh-ahh” background vocals (with lilting keyboards and chirping birds, no less) and have you daydreaming as well. “My Darling” and the stark “We’re Just Friends” echo Big Star circa Sister Lovers with a little Brian Wilson harmony thrown in, while “You Wake Up Feeling Old” is ironically finger-snapping pop.

The band must have gathered up every instrument in the studio and then some – bells, bird chirps, penny whistles, shakers, flutes, horns and tympani are sparingly but creatively used throughout the record. And as he promised, Tweedy has stripped down the band and reconstructed its direction, a move that will probably alienate some diehard Uncle Tupelo purists (assuming they aren’t already pissed off) but should thrill anyone with an open mind and a respect for the art of songwriting. Summerteeth is funky, soulful, rocking, heartbreaking, pensive and explosive – in short, a masterpiece.

Wilcoworld

Listen to clips here

Roger that!

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New Album! The Parties

Not quite brand new, but hopefully new to you..

Maybe it was the personnel turnover, maybe the effort to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump, but whatever the motivation, Coast Garde is a solid step forward for The Parties. Sounding at times like a merger between Let’s Active and The Three O’Clock, the jangle-pop, harmony-laden album also boasts some primal early Who and Stones DNA for muscle. It’s a great combination that grounds the more ethereal elements with substance, elevating what could be sing-along pop songs into something more substantial. 

Video: The Parties Much Better” (live)

Can’t Seem To Get My Mind Off Of You” is so catchy it could make a bus full of strangers sing along in unison; it’s a sixties AM radio formula repurposed through a current filter. Ditto “The Target Smiles”, a piano pop melody that Paul McCartney would have likely slotted on an album circa Ram. And tell me “Leavin The Light On” wouldn’t have been a smash for The Hollies. But the most impressive bit is the three-part “Suite”, clocking in at over seven minutes and incorporating everything from Kinks references and Byrdsian chord changes to Stones horn riffs and Who-like anthemic flourishes.

Don’t misunderstand – this is way more ambitious than it is derivative, and it’s persistently listenable. If you like the references you’ll love the album.

Listen to clips at Amazon

The Parties on MySpace

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Top Ten Albums of 2010 – #8

If the overt visual homage to Jesus Of Cool didn’t tip you off that there’s some Nick Lowe influence here, one spin through this excellent debut disc will clearly prove that Edward O’Connell is a product of his influences. Had he Photoshopped Elvis Costello’s head on those shoulders instead of a paper bag, you’d have his two major ingredients clearly identified.

Pop guy influenced by Nick Lowe? Maybe that’s why I immediately thought of Walter Clevenger when I heard Our Little Secret. If like me you are pining for Clevenger to release another album, I implore you to grab this one, for it pushes all the same buttons (I bet you could play “With This Ring” to a Clevenger fan and fool him).

What separates O’Connell from most artists with melodic chops is strong lyrical songwriting. Gotta figure that a law student knows his way around a lexicon, and like Elvis Costello, there’s a lot going on in and between the lines. I was gobsmacked at just how good this album is wall-to-wall. The lyrical wordplay of “Acres of Diamonds”, “Happy Black” and “We Will Bury You” is at a level I would expect from a vet like John Hiatt. How could I never have even heard his name before when he drops this as his debut?

Jangly, chiming guitars. Massive hooks and choruses. Superior vocals. Organic warmth. A sound that recalls (in addition to the aforementioned geniuses) Tom Petty, The Byrds, Richard X. Heyman, Teenage Fanclub, Michael Carpenter and their ilk. As fulfilling on the tenth play as the first. Why he has a bag over his head like The Unknown Comic is beyond me; this is clearly a major pop release that deserves widespread attention.

Let’s not make this (ahem) Our Little Secret – spread the word far and wide. We just might have a major pop star on our hands.

Listen to clips at Amazon or CD BABY

Edward O’Connell website

Edward O’Connell on MySpace

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Blast From The Past: Liquor Giants

I guess writing about the closing of Not Lame sent me to the record racks for consolation. Grabbing a Liquor Giants disc is never a bad thing to do. Meaning to select Every Other Day At A Time, I accidentally grabbed the next disc in the rack, Something Special For The Kids. An audio Freudian slip? The latter disc was originally a series of hidden bonus tracks on some editions of EODAAT and was not released on its own until later that year.

When I wrote the review for TransAction Magazine in 1998, I couldn’t focus on the bonus tracks; it wasn’t a sure thing that they’d see the light of day. But it’s okay now! Hell, I love tributes and cover tunes, and Something Special For The Kids is loaded with them. Jeff Beck, The Move, The Turtles, Connie Francis (!), Dusty Springfield, Jeff Lynne…I’m sure they did it for fun and I’m glad they did.

And Every Other Day At A Time is no slouch either.

It’s almost Christmas! Go grab both of them.

Ward Dotson and company are at it again with perhaps their strongest effort to date.  Calling to mind The Byrds, The Plimsouls, Big Star, The Kinks and several other similar influences, their Replacements-like “sloppy but tight” sound worms its way into your heart very quickly.

Although “What’s The New Mofo” won’t get airplay (thanks to the well-enunciated long version of “mofo“), ringing guitars and heartfelt harmonies songs like “Dearest Darling” “Kentucky Lounge” and “Caroline” deserve serious air time. The promo copy includes eleven covers as bonus tracks (to be released as a separate disc later this year) and is capped by a tremendous cover of Bowie’s “Boys Keep Swinging”.

Everybody loves a clown

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