Sunday, March 22, 2009

Frequent Spins (2009.2)

Beirut - March of the Zapotec / Realpeople - Holland
This is actually a double EP release from Zach Condon, the brainchild of Beirut. So, what is a double EP exactly? It's a full-length album. But, in this case, he's calling the second EP a different project altogether, one that goes by the name of Realpeople. The two EPs are stylistically quite different, with March of the Zapotec's Mexican influences being a far cry from Holland's electronic textures. Despite their differences, both still feel like Beirut to me, and this album—or double EP—is another impressively eclectic indie pop offering from Condon.

Clem Snide - Hungry Bird
This album was shelved a few years ago, when Clem Snide disbanded. [Hey, that's a bit of a pun, isn't it?] I've read varying accounts as to why it's being released now. Either it's to celebrate the band's decision to get back together, or it's their much delayed swan song. It doesn't quite measure up to their best albums, The Ghost of Fashion and Soft Spot, but with under-stated and quirky pop songs like "Born a Man", "Burn the Light" and "With All My Heart", it's certainly a welcome return...or a fine farewell.

Dan Auerbach - Keep it Hid
The Black Keys are one of those artists that I keep giving chance after chance for one of their albums to finally resonate with me. It just hasn't happened yet. They're definitely a quality band, but they just seem to overdo it with that raw blues-rock sound, to the point that I'm starting to tune them out at about the two-thirds point of each record. Well, that is, until the debut solo release from Black Keys singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach. It doesn't stray too far from the formula employed in his day job, but adds a little more diversity, and simply doesn't bludgeon the listener to death as his main band does with their trademark sound.

Strand of Oaks - Leave Ruin
Quiet, spare and, at times, beautiful, I've been wracking my brain, but just can't think of who this album reminds me of. Nebraska-era Springsteen is one comparison I've read, but to me, that doesn't quite describe the spare folk of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania school teacher Timothy Showalter. I'm sure a few Iron & Wine references are forthcoming, especially considering the teacher angle. This album doesn't even come close to blowing me away like The Creek Drank the Cradle did, but there's definitely some potential here.

Willie Nelson and Asleep at the Wheel - Willie and the Wheel
Bob Wills has, for quite some time, been my favorite country pioneer. Frequently called "The King of Western Swing", Wills' music combined country and jazz influences to create a sub-genre that also influenced early rock 'n' roll. In fact, Wills is one of only nine members of both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Asleep at the Wheel have been paying homage to Wills' sound since the early 70s, but they've somehow managed to remain only in my peripheral. There are three Bob Wills songs on this collaboration with Willie Nelson, along with standards by a few other forefathers of Western swing. All of these versions remain fairly true to the originals, but very enjoyable nonetheless.