Music

Amos Lee: As the Crow Flies

An EP of tracks that didn't make last year's hugely popular album Mission Bell.

Amos Lee

As the Crow Flies

Label: Blue Note
US Release Date: 2012-02-14
UK Release Date: 2012-02-14
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

Okay, so say you're a chef. You've been cooking for a few years, and you've gained a steady following among people who appreciate your simple but flavorful approach to meals. Suddenly you come up with a new recipe that makes you suddenly one of the most popular chefs in the country. What do you do for an encore?

Here, Amos Lee -- the soulful Philadelphian folkie whose Mission Bell album last year roared out of nowhere to hit #1 on the Billboard album chart -- serves us an amuse bouche. As the Crow Flies is an EP made up of songs that didn't quite make the cut for Mission Bell. Smart, and the recycling makes it environmentally friendly.

Nothing here is quite as punchy as "Windows Are Rolled Down", the big hitter from the last record; that's kind of the nature of follow-up side dishes. But "Simple Things" has a shot; it's a slide-guitar-heavy slow jam with the economy on its mind. Lee has a haiku-like eye for detail ("When I am returning / 'Nother day on the job / It's like a revelation coming home / Seein' you sleepin' with the lights on") and he's not afraid to wear his big fat romantic heart on his sleeve.

If you hate this kind of thing, you'll REALLY hate closing track "There I Go Again". The easy loping groove incorporates funky electric piano, choired soul backing vocals, and some of the sneakiest rhymes around: "I ain't innocent / I've paid my dues and I've paid off my tenement / And I ain't here looking for no sentiment." By the end of its five minutes, you'll either be all hands-in-the-air or you'll be barfing out your car window because you're a punk-rockin' hardcase with no kind of human feelings.

It's pretty easy to figure out why "May I Remind You" didn't make it to the big leagues: too slow, too draggy, not fleshed out enough. That might also be the case with "The Darkness", except that its epic feel (urged on by the lovely string arrangement) is so lovely, and Lee puts in a vocal performance that rivals anything he's done before. I suspect "Mama Sail to Me" might have been dumped because of its title alone, even though its mid-period Bob Dylan vibe actually works pretty nicely.

The consistency of As the Crow Flies makes it more than just a doggie bag; honestly, all these tracks could have found a home on that record without diminishing its quality. Longtime fans will love this amuse bouche, new believers will appreciate it, and people who dislike this kind of music should just move along quickly.

6

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image