Single of the Year The Flaming Lips – Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds Olivia Harris & Bruce Richardson – Up On the Roof (iTunes)
This year settles it for me, as far as rock and pop goes I’m no longer going to devote a heckuva lot of time to figuring out what the kids are into. I have to surrender to the verities that brought me here, songcraft, melodious harmonies, and slide guitars. Bingo: Mazzy Star hits a homerun with their triphopamericana comeback, a record soaked in tunefulness and slide and steel guitars. Mikal Cronin may have some appeal to the much younger generation but it seems to me the markers are all pegged to the late sixties, or, alternately Mott the Hoople and Queen. My Bloody Valentine strikes again and not much has changed–a very good thing except for having to read the adjective ‘gauzy’ too many times. Vampire Weekend surprised me. ‘Goth power pop’ sez I, crudely aiming my old fogey bag o’ categories; still, a terrific record.
Then there is home base, country and country rock and folk rock and nice singing and somgs set in the real world. The best singing is found on The Civil Wars, the saddest duo in the history of rock and roll. Neko Case is also dour on her best record so far. Kacey Musgraves isn’t sad, she’s mad. Brandy Clark sings like an angel. Dawes harken back to the folk rock band America, except they are much better songwriters, players, and there’s no top forty hippie radio anymore.
Just go plunk down $1.29 for Up On the Roof. You’ll be glad you did.
The Civil Wars are my favorite pop group of the moment right now, ever since shortly after their record Barton Hollow was released. It is true there are tens of favored artists in the second spot, but The Civil Wars take the pride of place.
They play, to me, mountain soul music. The intensity of their melancholia and the spike of their all-tangled-up erotic power is fit without any cotton candy margins at all. Two great voices, acoustic guitar and three chords. And, you have to throw away assumptions about how they pull it off when you discover both are married to other people.
A new record is due after Joy Williams and John Paul White navigated some bumps in the road. Thank you very much.
Three years ago, Glen Hansard and Irglova Marketa, starred in the movie Once, a bittersweet love story framed by the joining of a man and woman’s musical and romantic aspirations. Among the duets the two sing as they use their musical journey together to work through their feelings for each other, is the melancholy Falling Slowly. It deservedly went viral.
Now, as a new musical year rolls in, I am happy to report the duo of Joy Williams and John Paul White have plucked this same bittersweet chord with the song Poison and Wine from their debut record, Barton Hollow. And, the video has gone viral too on youtube. The new record drops February 1.Ms. Williams is the known quantity. She gained notice as a rising star in Christian folk music back in the early eighties, when she was in her late teens. Then American Idol contestant David Archuleta picked up a song of hers, and a year later another song was featured on Grey’s Anatomy. Whereas John Paul White labored as a contract song writer until his debut record The Long Goodbye was released in 2008. The Civil Wars have come out from somewhere shy a tad shy of nowhere.
It makes sense the two met in songwriting camp. I haven’t heard the record, yet the copious videos they’ve made available, the free ep from last year, Live at Eddies (download) have generously set the stage for the duo’s song craft to become much better known. Much has been made of the two’s California meets Nashville synergy. Okay, but their artistry really seems centered on two great songwriters, their deep rapport, and, simple guitar or piano settings.
Check out the collection of videos at The Civil Wars‘ youtube portal. Billie Jean! Allison Rizk, one of my go-to mavens, has produced a nifty article and podcast at Radiopotato.