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Tuesday, Aug 3, 2010
Everest cranks up a great rock groove in this catchy tune

Everest is a So Cal band made up of musical veterans that embrace a solid rock format, although for “Let Go” the group has also added some strings to the mix. It’s a lush sonic landscape with a hard-hitting rhythmic romp from a band only a few years old, yet clearly comprised of accomplished musicians.  Frontman Russell Pollard played with Sebadoh, the Watson Twins, and the Folk Implosion, just to name a few. The group was tapped by Neil Young to tour with him in 2008 and two Everest CDs were released on his label, Vapor Records. These five guys are also a fave opening act of Minus the Bear as well as My Morning Jacket.


“Let Go” is the opening track of the band’s new release, On Approach. It was actually recorded at an old chicken ranch before the group completed the process in its studio in L.A. The video for the song begins with a nice little intro of the band tuning up in a studio. After some cooing vocals the lyrics begin with a simple yet sweet concern: “May I come in / My old friend / You’re looking thin / Do you feel alright?”


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Tuesday, Aug 3, 2010
A turn towards the radio-friendly on the new Manic Street Preachers record may not be for everyone, but it's hardly new, either, and is a direction which has yielded great music before.

In announcing their latest and tenth album, to be released in late September, Welsh rock veterans Manic Street Preachers described Postcards From a Young Man as “one last shot at mass communication”. Provocative as ever, the band will have meant for this fascinating choice of words to sound ominous, but after the first UK radio play of “(It’s Not War) Just the End of Love” last night, responses will be varied.


Anthemic, brief, uplifting and string-laden, the new song will not be received by the faction of the band’s fanbase that applaud only the darkest of the group’s material, and have always felt that the harrowing 1994 album The Holy Bible was a singular high point from which the group have since uniformly declined. Those fans also didn’t like and may well have forgotten some of the band’s past explorations with pure pop-rock, including a number of wonderful and accessible songs spread across past albums like Everything Must Go (1996), Know Your Enemy (2001) and especially the tenderly icy Lifeblood (2004). Another faction of fans—myself included—lapped up that material, and will be impressed with the radio gleam of the new song.


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Thursday, Jun 17, 2010
The greatness of 'The Happiness Project' does not lie in its carefully-crafted songs. It lies in the stories it tells. 'The Happiness Project' is about aging, the suppleness of life, and finding whatever happiness you can in contemporary life.

I forget sometimes, sitting in my little studio apartment, the lives that go on directly beyond my four whitewashed walls. Then, later on, leaning over the balcony the first day the sun makes its remarkable summer comeback, I meet my neighbors for a short conversation that lasts just as long as our encounters in the hallway or in the elevator. Alone, I wonder what they are really like. What they do and what they think; how they survive and make sense of everything.


I imagine that this is what Charles Spearin (founding member of Do Make Say Think and multi-instrumentalist for Broken Social Scene) must have thought many times before he started The Happiness Project. Simply put, The Happiness Project uses the inflections of ordinary human speech as a springboard to compose music. On the surface, it is music and performance art, but beneath the sounds lurks a microcosm of modern urban life.


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Thursday, Jun 10, 2010
Don't let the man's tender tenor fool you: he's got a dark side. And the juxtaposition of the sweetness and menace are part of what makes the music so compelling.

Some people have a bone to pick with the term “alt-country”, but over the years, I find myself reaching for it in place of other labels like “Americana” or “roots music”. In describing favorite artists such as Old 97s or early Wilco, alt-country seems to best capture the idea of what the genre is to me: American country music played by and for people who grew up listening to punk rock and have a lot more Ramones in their record collections than anything to come out of Nashville post-1970s. I have never loved any artist who could qualify for a CMA in the last couple of decades, so the only kind of country that speaks to me is either the old kind, or the alt kind.


Whatever you want to call it, San Diego’s John Meeks does it smashingly. His new record, Old Blood was released on Loud and Clear Records on May 18, and was produced at Stereo Disguise Recording Laboratories, brainchild of Black Heart Procession’s Pall Jenkins. The new record became one of my most hotly anticipated releases of this year when I caught wind of the first single, “Been Down By Love”, which I rhapsodized about here.


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Friday, Apr 30, 2010
A "gut reaction" to four upcoming big releases.

May is shaping up to be a huge month not only for summer movies, but for music. Four bands that have released Album of the Year-quality albums are set to release new albums in the coming weeks. As a music geek, you may have looked forward to these types of “Super Tuesday” events when two or even three big releases dropped on the same day. However, the advent of streaming releases ahead of the release date has taken much of the luster out of these musical “Super Tuesdays”.


Almost a month before its May 17th release date, LCD Soundsystem is streaming This is Happening on their website. NPR is streaming the new Hold Steady and Broken Social Scene albums. And last week, The New York Times streamed The National’s High Violet.


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