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Friday, Jan 8, 2010

San Diego singer-songwriter John Meeks is, by all accounts, a real quiet and unassuming kind of guy. So it was probably fitting that his newest song, “Been Down by Love”, crept casually into my inbox through a friend, and I didn’t look up again until I realized I’d hit repeat about 15 times. Meeks runs in some pretty esteemed circles (Black Heart Procession’s Pall Jenkins and the Album Leaf’s Jimmy LaValle both contribute with production and bass, respectively), and with heavy hitters like that in his corner, you know the guy’s got the sauce. His sound puts me in mind of Whiskeytown’s classic “Strangers Almanac”, Uncle Tupelo, and the solo work of Old 97s’ Murry Hammond. But at the same time, “Been Down by Love” could have fit in perfectly on Doves’ superb offering from earlier this year, Kingdom of Rust. Like Ryan Adams with humility.


Meeks has a full-length album currently in production, but for now I subsist on the four songs available through all the usual outlets (iTunes, Amazon, etc.).  There’s also a pretty cool video for “Been Down by Love” that was shot out in the California desert around Pioneertown, set of many a Western movie and TV show. Gene Autry would approve.



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Thursday, Jan 7, 2010

James Mercer of The Shins and Danger Mouse have joined forces to create a new group, Broken Bells. Their self-titled album is due out on Columbia on 9 March 2010. The album’s first single, “The High Road”, is now available on the official site as well as iTunes and Amazon.com.


Broken Bells - The High Road


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Thursday, Jan 7, 2010

The female-run indie label Kill Rock Stars have recently added Elliott Smith to their extensive catalog. KRS plans to re-issue Smith’s first solo album, Roman Candle, on vinyl for the first time in the U.S. on 6 April 2010. The album was remastered by Smith’s archivist and editor of Tape Op Magazine, Larry Crane. The label also plans to re-release Smith’s posthumous From a Basement on the Hill, making KRS the official haven for Smith’s independent releases.


In celebration of the re-releases KRS has unleashed a previously unreleased Elliott Smith tune “Cecilia/Amanda.” The song was recorded by Crane in 1997 at Jackpot! Recording Studio. You can download “Cecilia/Amanda” at the KRS official site.



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Monday, Jan 4, 2010
Albums that missed our Top 20 Re-Issues of 2009 list, but at least one of our writers loves.

1959 remains, arguably, the most important year in the history of jazz music. Among all-time classic efforts from Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus released his masterpiece, Mingus Ah Um. To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of this seminal session, we were blessed with Mingus Ah Um: Legacy Edition (which includes a remaster of the original, along with bonus tracks and the entirety of the other album Mingus cut for Columbia in 1959, Mingus Dynasty). 1959 signified the year that Mingus, after considerable dues paying, fully matured as a musician and composer. Mingus Ah Um is a virtual encyclopedia of the jazz music made at that point in the 20th century, which means it celebrates the sounds and feelings of America. This is the one Mingus release that has a little bit of everything, from ebullient statements of purpose (“Better Git It in Your Soul”) to soulful tributes (“Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”, “Jelly Roll”) to Mingus’s inimitable sociopolitical smackdowns (“Fables of Faubus”). This reissue is at once an essential reminder for fans and an imperative introduction for novices; it is the ultimate testament to the miracle that was Charles Mingus, one of the immortal voices in American music.



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Monday, Jan 4, 2010
Albums that missed our Top 20 Re-Issues of 2009 list, but at least one of our writers loves.

For the past decade, Swervedriver seemed destined to be one of the Bands That History Left Behind. The hard-hitting, melodic, often thrilling music the band produced in the early-to-mid 1990s would forever be lost in a wash of bad record deals and bad timing. Anyway, what to make of a British band that sang about Ford Mustangs? Swervedriver were pigeonholed into the short-lived UK “shoegazer” scene because they had an indifferent image and made music that was as pretty as it was loud. Here, though, was driving music that was neither as obtuse as metal nor as bleak as Nirvana. 1991 debut “Raise was a strong enough feet-finding effort built around a trio of outstanding singles. 1993 follow-up, Mezcal Head, however, was a bona-fide masterpiece, with a devastating combination of great tunes, great playing, and great production. Thankfully, these thoughtful, rich-sounding reissues gave fans and curious music lovers in general a chance to catch up with a band that shouldn’t have been left behind in the first place.



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