Saturday, March 24, 2007

Random Josh Rouse Posting

There are literally thousands of sensitive singer songwriter types that get signed every day. If these bards didn't exsist, where would Grey's Anatomy, Scrubs and other TV shows get their music? But I submit to you one Josh Rouse, a singer/songwriter who is actually worth your time and adoration. Rouse has been kicking around for a while now with little to no notice by the commercial media. All he does is release great pop records that tap into a well of emotion and longing. His voice is just this side of a whisper and carries with it a certain meloncholy that would be reminiscent of either Morrissey or Nick Drake (and yet he doesn't really sound like either one of them)

Rouse's best record is probably a release from a couple of years back called UNDER COLD BLUE STARS. This was my introduction to him and I just remember listening to this album over and over. I couldn't quite put my finger on why I kept coming back to it, I just know I couldn't get the songs out of my head. Rouse borrows from the traditional pop songbook when it comes to theme; love and loss.

Rouse's 2005 album, NASHVILLE, is also a strong record. (this is what you love about artists like this, no real suprises but a guarantee of at least 4 songs of worth on every record. You can't say that about every artist out there). The standout track here is probably, "Winter In The Hamptons", which could have been an outtake from the Smiths, STRANGEWAYS HERE WE COME. The guitar hook is very Marr-esque in its delivery.

So there you have it. No flash or excitement. Just three great pop songs from someone you should get to know.

Josh Rouse -- Ugly Stories (from Under Cold Blue Stars)

There are also some live tracks for Download at Josh's MySpace Page

Sunday, March 18, 2007

When An Artist Should Be Picky

There is always the belief among fans of an artist or a band that we are entitled to hear as much of the music as possible. We devour b-sides, live tracks, alternate versions and one off cover songs like red ants at a picnic. We feel a god given right to critique every piece of music, however underproduced, because we know better than the writer of the song. My argument is this, there is a reason some material never makes it to a record...because it's crap. It didn't work in the studio so it was set aside to be reinvented later. When these things hit the internet they spoil the artist's work because they are falsely given the same treatment as a proper release.

Which brings me to Ryan Adams. I think Adams views himself as the Prince of the No Depression set. He has a pathological need to release everything he records. He threw out three records last year (0ne of which was a double album). It was creative overkill. Imagine what might have been if rahter than rushing three records into stores (not for capital gain like some other overindulgent bands, but for creative validation of his genius at writing in a variety of areanas and genres) he took his time and cultivated the best of those sessions into one album? How might that record have done in comparison. I know that Adams appears not to be interestedin commercial success, but from a pruely creative standpoint would it have been better for him to take his time.

Most Adams fans dismiss GOLD as too glossy and overproduced. But does it not contain arguably his best work? Can you think of anything off the last three albums with the delicacy and grace of "La Cienega Just Smiled" or "When The Stars Go Blue"? Maybe this makes me a commercial hack, but I actually like it when artists take their time. It's almost always worth it.

(m4a) Ryan Adams -- The Shadowlands (From Love is Hell)
This is a simply beautiful song, with gorgeous instrumentation. My wife absolutely loves it.

I wish the rest of this record could have been this good, this heartbreaking and this well thought out.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Great REM Debate

I stumbled across quite a discussion that shot up on a couple of my favorite blogs recently regarding REM. (which seems appropriate given their recent induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) Song, by Toad posits that REM was once a great band that has fallen on hard times. I cannot disagree with his thesis, after all has anyone actually listened to their last record? It's as if Micheal and the boys were asleep for half of it waking up just in time to record "Leaving New York" (which I believe was probably a left over from prior recording sessions that some A and R guy unearthed and said, why not at least give me one good single to play with...)
Anyway, the consensus from both the comments on this thread as well as from another outstanding blog, The Vinyl Villian, is that NEW ADVENTURES IN HI-FI might be the best REM record in totality. Again, on this point I don't entirely disagree. NEW ADVENTURES is a record made by four professional musicians at the height of their talent (coincidentally the last with original drummer Bill Berry). However many of the comments seem to feel that MONSTER is a less than steller effort. maybe I have a personal attachment to that album since it was that tour that I finally saw them live. But what make me give it more weight is how it affected the band. While touring for that album, much of NEW ADVENTURES was constructed. MONSTER pave the way for the subtler HI FI. Without MONSTER'S harder edge, NEW ADVENTURES doesn't work (I don't think the band could have made "Leave", "Undertow", or Wake Up Bomb" if this record had followed AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE) It's almost as if the two records are companions of one another. After that, things go way down hill.
But this brings to mind a larger problem. How do you judge a body of work by a band such as this. Do we penalize them for the fact that their early work was so groundbreaking that it's easy to marginalize? After all, off the top of your head how many bands can you think of that have openly aped Peter Buck's guitar sound? (10,15?) What about GREEN, OUT OF TIME or AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE. I think those three records (back to back to back no less) show such wide variance of music and such a depth of lyrical accumen that might just be unparalleled in music. (Not even U2, probably my favorite band of all time, can hang with that strong a three album stretch, but that is for another argument.)
I guess my point is this. REM has fallen victim to much the same curse that most great bands do. Time simply passed them by. Their body of work is so great that whatever they do at this point will be poor in comparison to what they once were. Word is that a new record is forthcoming. I'm sure I will buy and listen to it many, many times. But it won't be as good as their early work. How can it?
Having said that, I give you a couple of selections with no relation to this argument. "Turn you Inside Out" off of GREEN is, at least in my mind, the definitive REM sound. (plus it kicks major ass live!!). "Witchita Lineman, from the "Bittersweet Me" single, was recorded during a soundcheck on the MONSTER tour (which is where much of NEW ADVENTURES came from). I like this because you can hear the band working it out as they go. Allowing the song to develop and eventually by midpoint finding the spot when it all comes together and makes it theirs.
Just my two cents...feel free to leave me yours.

REM -- Begin the Begin (Live at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)

Thursday, March 08, 2007

In the Interest of Being Fair

A few weeks ago I posted a short video of one of my son's taking his first steps. Well in the spirit of equality here is an equally short video of my other son taking his first steps. (twins are sooo much fun!!)Sorry this one has no audio...