Feist: World In Motion

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A larger-than-life talent with a down-to-earth personality, Canadian singer/songwriter Leslie Feist breezes through the folk, pop, electronic and rock worlds with the greatest of ease. By Rich Juzwiak

“You want a quote? Here, I’ll give you a quote: always a crowd!”

Broken Social Scene singer/guitarist Kevin Drew, Coors Light in hand, is talking loudly to compete with the din at Central Park’s Summer Stage. He’s backstage, which is really just some grassy space to the left of the performance area with a boardwalk-type landing and a few trailers. A few minutes ago, Drew was serving as a surprise guest for the encore of Leslie Feist’s headlining set at the venue’s Canada Day show, with rapper Buck 65 and fellow Scene-ster Jason Collett rounding out the bill. Drew, Feist and her band played a pumped-up version of Broken Social Scene’s “Major Label Debut” to a rapturous response.

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The Moore Brothers: A Simple Plan

moore_brothersc2Behold the different methods artists employ in hopes of scaling those gossamer heights known as pop perfection: Swathing a song in layer upon layer of harmonies, then adding strings and horns until they polish the thing beyond recognition. Obsessing over sonic minutiae to the point of dementia and incurring studio bills rivaling the gross national product of some small countries. Retro-fitting the exuberant ring of Rickenbackers with the right haircuts and trousers in hopes of appealing to record-store clerks and the women who spurn them.

Then there’s the Moore Brothers’ less taxing, more dignified approach. It involves little more than the two siblings’ blissfully simpatico high tenors, one acoustic guitar, one microphone and the 40-odd hours of studio time it took to create their positively groovy fourth album, Murdered By The Moore Brothers (Plain).

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Homestead Records: Frontier Days

homestead350Homestead Records released albums by Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr, Sebadoh, Big Black and Giant Sand. The story of the label that pioneered—and some say plundered—indie rock. By Matthew Fritch

Sub Pop sold grunge and SST peddled punk, but Homestead Records gave you indie rock. From 1983 to 1996, the Long Island, N.Y., imprint left its logo all over the artifacts of alternative music: Dinosaur Jr’s first album. Sebadoh’s first three albums. Sonic Youth’s second album. From the provocateurs (GG Allin, the Frogs) to early-period Seattle scenemakers (Green River, Screaming Trees), from European exports (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Einstürzende Neubauten) to NYC free-jazz figureheads (David S. Ware, William Parker), Homestead’s discography documented it all.

Homestead and its parent company, music distributor Dutch East India Trading, was also a breeding ground for tastemaking figures of the underground. Among those who passed through the corporation’s ranks were the future principals of Matador Records, the founders of respected independent stores Other Music and Sound Exchange, an editor of Blender and Spin—even a member of Helmet.

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Martha Berner: Migrant Song

martha_berner520Martha Berner is making up for lost time. Since leaving high school, the 29-year-old singer/songwriter has lived in locations as far-flung and exotic as Alaska, Israel, the Virgin Islands and Thailand. But you can’t blame someone for seeking a life beyond Williams Bay, Wis., a village 90 miles northwest of Chicago without a single traffic light or grocery store. Berner needed to see the world.

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Elf Power: Half Life

elf_powe340Given its name, you can only expect Elf Power to be industrious, light and magic. Back To The Web (Rykodisc), the eighth album from the Athens, Ga., band led by singer/guitarist Andrew Rieger, deftly tinkers with the sonic blueprint.

Back To The Web moves away from the glammy, electric rock of 2004’s Walking With The Beggar Boys in favor of pastoral, acoustic fields. Most of the new album owes less to stomping T.Rex than to starry-eyed Tyrannosaurus Rex. The brief, delicate “Come Lie Down With Me” bears similarities to the traditional British folk ballads Rieger heard on his father’s Fairport Convention and Richard & Linda Thompson records when he was growing up.

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