Thursday, March 27, 2014

Mired in 60s/70s Folk Rock?

Fast forward to the recent explosion of rusticated bands like Mumford & Sons and the Decemberists, likable but ultimately forgettable ensembles. If you want to hear something truly divergent from this school, cue up Iron & Wine's 2007 "The Shepherd's Dog." Sam Beam and company turn the folk sound on it's ear, building abstract landscapes with a foundation of acoustic guitar as heard through a psychedelic filter. This is a gateway album to be listened to in it's entirety, and, to be fair, it's a bit of an acquired taste.

Imagine you're in a club enjoying an acoustic troupe when you begin to realize that someone spiked your drink. The opening "Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car" moves along at a catchy pace, but as you get deeper into the playlist, Sam, his accompanying sister Sarah, and others introduce sounds, instruments, and keys that stretch your initial patience. Will you flee from this unconventional cacophony or give it a chance to mellifluously blend into the arrangement, as it ultimately does? A second listen to songs like "Carousel," draws you further into the Dog's addition. This is Iron & Wine's magnum opus but it's definitely not for the folk puritan. Fortunately and unfortunately, it may leave you craving for more.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Meaning of Life

Following the 80's theme . . . this is my favorite video of the early MTV "New Wave" era. "Something About You" features the Isle of Wight's Level 42 and was essentially a one-hit wonder for U.S. audiences, despite the band's homeland popularity. The video is not so much a story as an anecdote, presented in outtakes as we see singer and bassist Mark King sing along--or fail to sing along--with the soundtrack. Set during a brief underground train ride, each of the band members explores a fantasy about fetching British actress, Cheri Lunghi, who you may recognize from movies like Excalibur and The Mission. At times, you can virtually feel the gusts of air blowing through the cabin. As the crew disembarks from their car, they fail to notice Ms. Lunghi as they walk past her. To add a nightmarish air, a King doppelganger appears as a vaudevillian reality check for each band member's flight of fancy. BTW, in the book, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, "42" is the answer to a question about the meaning of life. Check out, Something About You.