Monthly Archives: July 2012

Album Review – HANDWRITTEN – The Gaslight Anthem

Listen to the new album HANDWRITTEN by The Gaslight Anthem, streaming courtesy of NPR

The Gaslight Anthem

Dear Music Appreciators,

I’m new to the Gaslight Anthem. At first listen their new album sounded to me like average rock music with cliché rock lyrics, sung by a passionate, standout rock front man.

But between the first listen and the second listen I found myself thinking about what I’d heard, that little snippets were stuck in my mind (a “whoa oh” here, an “oh sha la la” there), and that for some reason I wanted to hear it all again…

At second listen I found that even if (and “if” being the key word) my earlier criticisms were correct, maybe it didn’t matter all that much.

This is a catchy, driving, relatively unsophisticated, yet easily likeable rock and roll album. These guys get compared to Springsteen a lot. I’d say well, yes, I see that – but if they have to be compared to famous fellow Jersey boys then I feel they’re a little more like a scrappier, punkier Bon Jovi than Springsteen.

Notice the three different guitar approaches that open “45,” the ear tattooing guitar work on the last thirty seconds of “Mullholland Drive,” the throat shredding vocal accents on “Too Much Blood,” the mellow beauty of album closer “National Anthem” – all of these and many more memorable moments contribute to an overall impression that because they’ve clearly got heart, although these guys may not end up on the cover of Time, their music is certainly worth your time.


Constant Listener

Album Review – STRANGE NEGOTIATIONS – David Bazan

Sample “People” from STRANGE NEGOTIATIONS by David Bazan

David Bazan


Dear Music Appreciators,


1. …you already own any albums by Pedro the Lion or David Bazan.

2. …you’re not a regular Christian, you’re a cool Christian.

3. ….you like the sound of Randy Newman’s voice, and you wouldn’t mind hearing something a little deeper and growlier coming from a balding, bearded, Christian lumberjack type from the Pacific Northwest.

4. …you’re cool with an album ratio of approximately 6-2-2, or in other words six great songs, two good songs, and two so-so songs.

5. …you’re from Seattle, Washington and you love yourself some indie rock music or you at least wish you were from Seattle, Washington because you love yourself some indie rock music.

6. …you can sing along to Steppenwolf’s “The Pusher” with no problemo whatsoever – in fact you’ve been known to drop the GD bomb once in awhile yourself.

7. …you currently attend or did attend at any time in the past a Christian college at which you spent any amount of time drinking beer, questioning your faith, failing to live up to expectations, or any combination of the three.

8. …you’re a smart, complicated, person with a dark side who probably reads a lot and has smart opinions and smart thoughts and questions a lot of stuff in life.

9. …you are a balding, God-fearing family man with a drinking problem and a tendency to see the glass as half-empty. Extra points if you are bearded.

10. …you know or love or have a thing for a man or men that fit the above description.


Constant Listener

Album Review – FEAR FUN – Father John Misty

Sample “I’m Writing a Novel” from FEAR FUN by Father John Misty

Father John Misty

Dear Music Appreciators,

I ran down the road / pants down to my knees / screaming please come help me that Canadian shaman gave a little too much to me and I’m writing a novel / because it’s never been done before…

These lyrics, (from “I’m Writing A Novel”) might contain some keys to the heart of Father John Misty’s Hollywood-soaked Sub Pop debut FEAR FUN. Drugged out high jinx, paranoia, humor, and the irony of schlepping to a sun-soaked southern setting where your artistic ambition and individuality make you just like everybody else.

Remember when the Brady Bunch went to Hawaii and got themselves into all kinds of shenanigans and tom-foolery? Perhaps this record is a little like “Fleet Foxes Go To Hollywood” but in this episode drummer J. Tillman gets swallowed by the Hollywood whale and never makes it back to Seattle, disappears into drugs, changes his name to Father John Misty, and puts out a record in a puff of paranoid pot smoke.

And just like Hollywood, there’s something for everyone to be found on FEAR FUN. A little bit country and a little bit rock and roll – not to mention pop, easy-listening, parody, psychedelia, and a heavy dose of singer-songwriter on acid. The songs sometimes have a carnival-like careening feeling as they spin like a menagerie of animals on a merry-go-round – and there’s J. Tillman as Father John Misty, hopping from horse to fish to cat like he just has to ride them all before the music stops.


Constant Listener


‘Tumbleweed’/’Wild Heart’- The Great American Canyon Band


Last night, as the sun set and the cool breeze flowed in through wide-open windows (thanks to a one-day reprieve from the heat), I sat on the couch and listened over and over to the debut EP from The Great American Canyon Band. It made for a great night. The Great American Canyon Band write songs made for porches and multi-colored skies and decompressing after long days, tunes that burst and bloom time and again with fresh, gorgeous, rollicking hope and joy. The world can never have enough of those kinds of songs.

Take a listen to ‘Tumbleweed’ and ‘Wild Heart’ below and then make your way over to their Bandcamp page and trade your email address for a download of their debut EP (which includes said songs). If you’re in/around Chicago you should be sure to catch them opening for Horse Feathers next Saturday night (the 28th

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Music Video – “Berkeley Girl” by Harper Simon


STARRING: Jena Malone and Harper Simon with a cameo by Henry Wolfe
MUSIC BY: Harper Simon
DIRECTED BY: Benjamin Kutsko
PRODUCED BY: Vanessa Black and Jack Richardson
REP: Doomsday Entertainment
EDITED BY: Benjamin Kutsko
FIRST AC: Cary Gallagher
WARDROBE BY: Rachel Kolar
MAKEUP: Sarai Fiszel
GAFFER: Wyatt Denny

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Album Review – HARPER SIMON – Harper Simon

Sample “Wishes and Stars” from HARPER SIMON by Harper Simon

Dear Music Appreciators,

This is the first album by the first son of legendary singer-songwriter Paul Simon. The baby boy that Simon sang to sleep in “St Judy’s Comet” grew up to become an accomplished musician in his own right, and far from making his “famous daddy look so dumb” he has honored his father’s musical legacy by crafting his own debut album with the kind of poetry, wit, and magnetic melodicism that is found in Paul Simon’s best work. Harper Simon looks, sounds, and writes like Paul Simon just enough to make things interesting – the similarities add to and enhance his work rather than detract and distract. Family business indeed.

The album begins with a meditative prayer (“All to God”) and ends with another sort of meditation – this time on a beautiful woman (“Berkley Girl”), effectively book-ending the ten-song cycle with matters of the spirit and matters of the flesh. In between Simon explores a range of topics, including loneliness, alienation, and life on a Native American reservation. He plays and sings through it all with the quiet confidence of a man who knows that at thirty-seven years of age and with songwriting in his blood, he has more than earned this chance to stand alone in the spotlight – the question is whether music lovers will turn toward that light.


Constant Listener

Album Review – LP1 – Joss Stone

Sample “Drive All Night” from LP1 by Joss Stone

Dear Music Appreciators,

1. You’re already a fan and you’ve been hoping for an album that will be better than the last two albums.

2. You’ve recently discovered Joss Stone and don’t mind starting with her present work and working back to her more well known stuff.

3. You’ve got soul, a nose ring, and a bit of an attitude (or you’ve got soul and attitude and are still working up to that nose ring).

4. You recently went through a breakup or are in the middle of a breakup and need a soul sister to sing you through it. Extra points for a breakup with someone who is a liar.

5. You recently reconciled with someone or discovered a new love – preferably someone you might drive all night for or someone with whom you might want to have a picnic.

6. Phrases like “Karma’s your master and you’re the b _ tch,” or “I’m a girl that don’t give a sh _ t,” or “…getting all messed up by f _ _ _ing fireside” don’t bother you – you’re not offended at all, rather you’re all like “hell yeah, tell it like it is sister!”

7. You’re cool with an album ratio of approximately eight good songs to four so-so songs.

8. You don’t mind an album that is front loaded with all the best songs, then slows down in the last third, but…the slow last third of the album includes a melodic little duet about having a picnic.

9. You don’t feel too let down when the best song on the album is also the first song on the album.

10. Sexy, funky, soulful songs sung by rich-throated, growly, blonde British tarts get your mojo working.


Constant Listener