Music

Amos Lee: Supply and Demand

Supply and Demand is a well-paced effort that improves on the elements that made Lee’s debut a noteworthy release among (primarily) the Starbucks set.


Amos Lee

Supply and Demand

Label: Blue Note
US Release Date: 2006-10-03
UK Release Date: 2006-10-02
Amazon
iTunes

In the trail of Norah Jones' stardust, Amos Lee was signed to Blue Note Records. On Lee's eponymous debut in 2005, producer Lee Alexander rendered Lee the male counterpart to Jones. The hushed tone of Amos Lee was quite appealing in parts but the production felt hesitant overall. Anyone who caught a performance by Lee in Spring 2005 witnessed a soulful and edgier personality than Amos Lee presupposed. At the time, PopMatters' very own Matt Cibula assessed Lee's future with these words: "Everything hinges on the next album, and whether or not he wants to really reach people" (27 May 2005). Well, the next album has quickly arrived and, with the keen ear of producer Barrie Maguire, Amos Lee reaches listeners with an assured, well-rounded set of introspective tunes.

Just under 40 minutes, Supply and Demand is a well-paced effort that improves on the elements that made Lee's debut a noteworthy release among (primarily) the Starbucks set. A year on the road has transformed Lee's voice into a grainy yet crystalline tenor. With its slightly Southern drawl, Lee's voice is very well-suited to the material, most of which reflects on the uncertainty of love and fragility of relationships (i.e. life on the road.) On "Skipping Stones", a short ditty threaded with gospel, Lee laments, "Now she's left me for something more sure/ And I don't know if I can do this anymore." Particularly impressive is his phrasing on "Lovers will come/ Lovers will go." The emotional depth of Lee's voice saves the lyric from being cliché. Likewise, "Careless" presents a situation not unfamiliar to male singer-songwriters -- a woman coming between two friends. Lee maps an authentic, passionate performance over his lyrics. "As you laid beside her/ I hope it felt good my friend", Lee sings with a gentle spite. His emotion is viscerally communicated and without a friend or a lover, Lee is left with "The Wind", an ode to the deafening silence of a loveless night. A slight echo on the vocal track makes lines like "A cold rain blows on my window/ A soft scent gone from my pillow" even colder and lonelier.

Not all the songs are ruminations about love gone wrong. Amos Lee is also concerned with larger human condition themes. The cover photo by Lucille Reyboz depicts Lee leaning against his guitar case, his gaze firmly fixed downward in space while people whisk by him in the background. Lee is still and focused amidst the chaos. This image suggests how Lee might conjure ideas for his lyrics: he observes the tiny details of human behavior around him and then channels these observations into rich, aurally redolent songs. The cover photo could even be a snapshot from "Night Train": "Nobody looks you in the eye here/ Walkin' round with clenched fists/ I been searchin' for a simple place/ Don't know if it exists." Lee is able to reach the people because he is one of the people, canvassing the human condition and all its frailties.

Though the subject matter on Supply and Demand is similar in scope to Amos Lee, the musical arrangements are markedly more varied. "Shout Out Loud", the first single from Supply and Demand, benefits from a charged backing unit, including Nate Skiles (guitar), Chris Joyner (organ), Jaron Olevsky (bass and piano), and Fred Berman (drums). Lee himself is palpably comfortable and confident on vocals and guitar. (It's hard to fathom that this is the same singer who whispered "Black River" on his debut not more than a year ago.) Most impressive on "Shout Out Loud" is the way Lee harmonizes with his lead vocal in a higher register. "Southern Girl", easily a follow-up single, also exhibits this technique to great effect and proves what a difference a year between albums and the input of a different producer makes.

It must be stated that Lee's lamentations may not serve the needs of all listeners. There's not an ounce of bombast on the album and the songs are wary of overproduction, which might underwhelm listeners who crave a jolt. This works in Lee's favor, however, for he'll inevitably expand his audience with each album and establish a long career as his songs and musical expression matures. In the meantime, unlike the woman Lee misses so much, the songs on Supply and Demand will comfort you on a cold, sleepless night.

7

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less
Culture

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less
Books

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

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

rating-image