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Music

Barton Carroll: The Lost One

With his second solo outing, the Crooked Fingers sideman spins dark, obsessive tales of lust and violence, leavened by shimmery guitar picking and a wry sense of humor.


Barton Carroll

The Lost One

Label: Skybucket
US Release Date: 2008-01-22
UK Release Date: Available as import
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Barton Carroll has a gentle, scratchy voice, a fluidly pretty way with the six-string, and a bouncy sense of melody that makes most of these 12 songs slip by in an alt.country haze. And yet, at the heart of these tracks there's a deep, frightening well of darkness. I'm hoping that Carroll's more of a storyteller than a confessionalist, because if he is actually the "I" in these tracks, he kind of scares me. Consider "Pretty Girl's Going to Ruin My Life (Again)", a pretty little love song, except that the narrator is sitting out in his truck in the rain, swilling down whiskey. "What do you say to a love that's true?" Carroll croons. Erm, how about, "911, that stalker is back in my driveway getting loaded again?"

By far the scariest, and in its way most stunning of these tracks, is "Burning Red and Blue", built on a circling 12/8 blues riff that'll put you in mind of "House of the Rising Sun". There's a menace in the verse, as the narrating character insinuates "I'll be out back / In my blue jeans / And my gun" to a woman who is clearly not entirely free to make her own choices. It's masterfully done, though, the whine of steel guitar, the deep baritone mutterings, the half-sketched portrait of destructive love.

There's not much to laugh about in "Burning Red and Blue", but elsewhere Carroll has a very fine, sly sense of humor. In "Brooklyn Girl, You're Going to Be My Bride", there's a jaunty jangle to his spiel about a girl who's "Drowning in boys / And a lot of hipster noise". The narrator is blissfully unaware that he hasn't got a chance in hell with this girl. It's not just that he's homely and none-too-smart and competing with a trust-fund-artist boyfriend, his shirt's inside out. And yet he recognizes no obstacles. "With that menacing smile / I'm going to walk you down the aisle / Brooklyn girl, you're going to be my bride". Uh huh, right.

You might catch a whiff of misogyny here. Yet once, in "Small Thing", Carroll does a fairly insightful gender switch, singing from the perspective of a woman who survived the Russian invasion of Berlin. It's a chilling song, with lyrics like "I was broken in / By broken men / With draining eyes" and "I lay on my back with all my might", its darkness at odds with the cascading purity of the guitar work that accompanies it.

For relief, there are relatively straightforward love songs like "Laurie, Don't Go" and the happily rocking "Ramona". (Though even in this, the happiest of songs on the disc, there is a knife in play and a guy who wants to "lay down and die" due to rejection.) Still, it's the psycho songs that stay with you, their crazy intensity in conflict with Carroll's laid back delivery. If he's a storyteller, Carroll is astoundingly adept at taking you into twisted minds and outré scenarios. If he's a first-person guy, though, watch out. You don't want this songwriter setting up camp in your driveway.

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Music

The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

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With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

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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

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Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

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There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

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Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

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Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

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