Jolie Holland sometimes sounds like she stepped out of a folk/blues fog that lifted 60 years ago. Her third album, Springtime Can Kill You (Anti-), isn’t merely retro, it’s downright strange. Filled with bohemian piano laments, midnight ramblings and boozy waltzes, it’s the work of an old soul with a deep record collection.
If there were Academy Awards for self-deprecation, Band Of Horses frontman Ben Bridwell would take home an Oscar. Over the course of a conversation, he insists that he’s a “shy singer,” “shitty guitarist” and “terrible drummer.” Despite these alleged handicaps, the guy has managed to create a strong contender for album of the year. Band Of Horses’ debut, Everything All The Time (Sub Pop), is a gorgeous, Southern-tinged record with enough atmosphere to sustain its own planet.
“I thought before recording that I really wanted an ELO-sounding record, with strings and keyboards and synths,” says Bridwell. “But then, as we got closer to it, we wanted to take a more raw approach.”
Pearl Jam is either album number eight or 188 from Eddie Vedder and Co., depending on whether you include official bootlegs (there’s 176 of them), live records (two), best-ofs (one) and odds ‘n’ sods collections (one). Either way, the 13-track LP is easily the Seattle quintet’s best studio effort since 1998’s Yield and a welcome return-to-form following 2002’s awkward Riot Act. Pearl Jam left longtime label Epic in 2003 and signed to J Records, the imprint run by 74-year-old music impresario Clive Davis. (The band’s new labelmates include Barry Manilow, Kenny G and Whitney Houston.) For a group as self-sufficient as Pearl Jam, something as cosmetic as changing record labels has zero effect on its musical output. Nonetheless, a change in scenery seems to have re-energized the band. While Pearl Jam finds Vedder once again raging against the machine (he has made no secret of his opinion of the Bush administration and the war in Iraq), this time out, his anger is focused and perfectly suited to these mostly hard-rocking songs that address the current state of the Union.
The 41-year-old Vedder spoke to MAGNET from Pearl Jam’s Seattle warehouse space.
It’s about time someone made a documentary about Gram Parsons: He’s only been dead for 33 years. Often called the father of country/rock, Parsons brought the two genres together during his time with the International Submarine Band, Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers. He made listening to—and liking—country music hip for the rock set. German filmmaker/musician Gandulf Hennig has dibs on the first-ever Parsons documentary, the revealing Fallen Angel, set for a DVD release July 11.
Sure, there’s nothing new under the sun. My Bloody Valentine defined squall as pop song 15 years ago. Link Wray poked holes in his amp with a pencil before he created “Rumble,” an instrumental that, nearly 50 years later, still causes catfights under full moons.
“All the most vital, arresting music has contained some bit of noise,” declares Parts & Labor drummer Christopher Weingarten. “So the idea of noise and melody intertwining doesn’t thrill me that much.”
After surviving pop stardom in the ’60s, Scott Walker left the spotlight and began practicing the dark art of deconstructing songs. With his first album in 11 years, the cult hero demonstrates how to reappear completely. By J. Edward Keyes
When it comes to telling the Scott Walker story, it’s important to keep an eye on the facts. Because Walker is a legend, and legends by their very definition exist in opposition to the truth. Consequently, there’s been a tendency to exaggerate for effect, to overstate minor incidents and to add more and deeper layers of mystery to an already murky back story. Keeping all the plot points in their proper proportion requires a firm and unswerving dedication to reality.
It’s not going to be easy. Because this is a story in which a teen idol who once soundly trounced both Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney in U.K. heartthrob contests has a series of nervous breakdowns and disappears for decades at a time, re-emerging periodically to make albums, meet people in dark bars and do a bit of interior decorating. It’s a story in which records with songs about hookers, gigolos and gonorrhea-stricken soldiers breeze to the top of the pop charts. It’s a story in which a Wally becomes an Angela, lovestruck teenage girls storm secluded monasteries, and a defenseless donkey gets assaulted in the streets of a small Irish town. Without the proper measure of intellectual steadying, the whole thing could devolve into a prolonged sideshow of empty mythologizing.
Also, at some point near the middle, a world-renowned percussionist is going to beat the shit out of a side of pork. Just a heads-up.
It’s March, and Austin’s native sons and daughters in the Black Angels are cranking out their sensimilla-laced brand of thunder and drone before a packed South By Southwest festival audience. Your screaming senses, however, try to warn you that you’re not in Texas anymore, but somewhere deep in the inky maw of Southeast Asia, being transported upriver into some unspecified heart of darkness.
“I was apparently recording things without paying attention to what I was doing,” says Juana Molina about the creation of her fourth album, Son (Domino). Watching Molina speak is like taking in a one-woman show. She gestures broadly. She bursts into momentary song. She demands audience participation. (“How do you call … ?” is a common phrase for the Argentina native, who didn’t start speaking English until the late ’90s.)
Get a good grip on your memory. If it doesn’t go back to the 1970s, you may want to read a book or two. See, Hollywood is coming for our icons next, and there isn’t a damn thing we can do about it.
The madness started a couple years ago, when Jamie Foxx won an Oscar for doing the same damn Ray Charles imitation—side-to-side with the head, face taking in the air—that everybody does. Ray set the template: early family traumas, love of music, a love story, some success, battles with drink and drugs, temptation that fucks up the earlier love story, pressure from The Man, redemption, decent soundtrack. Last year it was Johnny Cash and June Carter, essayed in Walk The Line by Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. She got the Oscar this time.
Stuart Murdoch went from idle daydreaming to pop idol—and it only took a decade. While Belle and Sebastian’s bedroom pop used to rule the school back in 1996, the formerly shy Scots have graduated to bigger stages and more exuberant sounds. By Mark Blackwell
It’s fast approaching 2 a.m. on the streets of Los Angeles, and they’re rolling up the sidewalks on cue to declare this drizzly Saturday night a wrap. The sold-out rock show at Koreatown’s historic Wiltern Theatre has long been over. The after-party in the basement has played out just as expected in a low-key, have-a-beer-and-a-quick-chat manner. Even the after-after-party at the bar next door has fizzled to an anticlimactic finish, the owners prematurely complying with local alcohol ordinances, banning access to all taps before the festivities had a chance to really begin. You’ve been put out onto the street and told it’s time to go home.
But you just happen to have an all-access pass, a shiny silver laminate that—combined with several brightly colored wristbands—will permit you to experience the elusive and exclusive after-after-after-party. And here you’ll finally come to grips with the unchecked decadence that can occur behind the scenes when a renegade septet of Scottish indie rockers, who’ve always done things the way they bloody well please, sets its 14 collective feet on American soil.