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Comments Off on Every Waking Moment

Every Waking Moment

Every Waking Moment

Fans of his first two should albums realize quickly that only half of his new one, Every Waking Moment, sounds different enough to be considered a new direction, but even the material that feels leftover from The Clarence Greenwood Recordings (including the live version of Bullet and a Target) packs enough punch to raise this album up a few notches. I’m particularly enamored by the first four tracks, which squarely put the singer/songwriter into a category of his own making, something comparable to 70’s soul music, or street wise folk. What I find most striking about Citizen Cope (whose stage name is not to be mistaken with Julian Cope, who I’ve panned in the past) is his penchant for melding in seemingly complete opposites. It’s like all at once he’s uniquely spiritual and political, tormented and inspirational, passionate and laid back.

Just as on his last two albums, one of the most compelling parts is hearing what this man has to say. The first track, Back Together, is pure personal introspection, laid out plainly in the lyrics.

Today though things ain’t goin’ my way
I’m back together again
I’m staring at the mirror
and it’s been been so long
since I’ve seen you my friend

The title track, Every Waking Moment, plays out musically as a Southern ballad as mellow and sincere as Ray Charles’ Georgia on My Mind. But the next track, Friendly Fire, sounds off what can reasonably be construed as Cope’s genuine anger over the government response to Hurricane Katrina.

They say help is coming
They say help his on it’s way
They shot him down
And he was innocent today
They run for cover
They got no answer
Why they left him for dead

Most of this personal venting comes to a fever pitch with Brother Lee, which sounds intentionally like a companion piece to Cope’s most famous song, Sun’s Gonna Rise. What’s heard on top of the pulsating lyrics, though, is a sentiment which suggests the slow formation of an army of loyal fans, potentially ready to turn their anger into something politically tangible.

Should that ever happen, the Democratic party might consider using Citizen Cope and his fan base of disgruntled youth for a strategic ally come November. And if he keeps up songwriting with as much power and grace as his most current offering, who knows how the times they might a change.

Forget whatever that Dylan guy said.

Fever In / Fever Out

Sick Boy

A big blue shiner on his cheek from one of many missteps in the mastery of walking, a lasting fever with clear signs of roseola, and an unrelenting cycle of nag/cry/scream that says simply “hold me in your arms for about 87 hours straight, please” and it is clear that our role into this parenting thing is still in its learning stages. The fever broke long ago, but the aftermath has continued into our rain-filled weekend.

My wife and I will eventually take stuff like this as no big deal, but if we seem a little on edge lately, it’s because we’re still paying some serious parenting dues.

culture, music

Comments Off on Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man (Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man (Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man (Motion Picture Soundtrack)Leonard Cohen’s songwriting stands on its own. It always has. I’m certain that the recent movie documentary concerning his life and music sheds some light on his working process and explores the trials and tribulations that contributed to his timeless portfolio of music—which is exactly why I was excited to see the soundtrack containing so many well-respected artists paying tribute to his songs.

I may be developing a small crush on Martha Wainwright, maybe even more than her brother, but I’m not sure her version of Tower of Song was the best choice for the album opener. It does a commendable job, though, of offsetting the particularly disappointing collaborative effort between the author of honor and U2 (the only not-concert recording on the album). She seems better suited for the narrative romance of The Traitor.

Brother Rufus performs a predictably slow and steady version of Chelsea Hotel No. 2. However, the Cuban influence arrangement of his second contribution, Everybody Knows, truly gives the song a new signature.

The Handsome Family does a so-so rendition of one of my favorite Cohen songs, Famous Blue Raincoat, but since the author himself has gone on record many times over the years, expressing his own disappointment in the execution of that song (proof that artists aren’t always the best judge of their own work), it may indeed be fitting. Still, if you want to truly be haunted by a mysterious love triangle, nothing beats the original.

Just as he did on Lou Reed’s Animal Serenade, the phenomenally tender expression of Antony‘s voice in his rendition of If It Be Your Will totally paralyzes any previous thought or emotion into total subservience. I don’t care how many covers have been done in the past, Cohen fans will hear this song for first time on this album. His respect to the tenderness it emotes is simply remarkable.

Other notables include Teddy Thompson, who sounds well on his way to creating a stage presence as powerful as his old man. I’m particularly fond of his take on The Future, which stands out certain phrases like “I’m the little Jew who wrote the Bible” and “I’ve seen the future, baby, it is murder” in my head. Those lines are so Leonard, and I’ve heard them many times before, but they creep through in new and unexpected ways through the ever-changing subjectivity of music.

And that’s the whole point, really. These songs do come alive with new meaning and new surprises at just about every corner. The lyrical expression contained within can be played over and over, and the stuff just never gets old. If only the same were true of the artist, we wouldn’t need movie documentaries to get inside his head, vainly attempting to harvest his special genius for ourselves.

culture, music

Comments Off on Another Fine Day

Another Fine Day

Another Fine DayGolden Smog‘s latest album, Another Fine Day is exactly the kind of album I should have purchased as a physical CD, complete with liner notes and inside sleeve art, instead of impulsively downloading bytes from the iTunes Music Store. I say that because I’ve read a few interesting anecdotes about the group that combines former members of the Jayhawks, Soul Asylum, and Jeff Tweedy from Wilco—a compelling combination worthy of inspection itself, never mind the generous 15-track serving size.

And for all of the natural ingredients combined in the mixture (and I promise not to use the word supergroup), I’m a little surprised this endeavor didn’t turn into more of a twangy-filled sap fest or sound awfully over-produced. Instead, the majority of the album is a light and airy concoction of folk-inspired pop melodies that simply ring pleasant. There’s an under-the-radar quality reminiscent of R.E.M.’s Reveal, which makes it suitable music for twilight moods or a non-obtrusive soundtrack for changing seasons.

5-22-02 jumps out as the likely stand-alone single, but there’s plenty more to enjoy on this album. This is a group who’s learned to take long strides on their own over the past decade and half and it shows.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear them not oversell songs frought with emotional heartache, or delve too deeply into derivative imitation of their 60’s folk and alt/county influences. In the end, they come out with an album full of gratifying sounds, which highlights their individual style and influence without being over the top, as supergroup’s often apt to be.

Hey, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it may just be the next supergroup from Minnesota.

culture, music

Comments Off on News and Tributes

News and Tributes

News and TributesWith the possible exception of their out of character remix of Decent Days and Nights, which at least goes into a surprising direction, the sound on the Futureheads latest album, News and Tributes, does nothing to reinforce the band’s choice of name. That’s not to say that they’re not one of the more interesting bands to come out of the umpteenth wave of the British invasion, but it does leave room for some amount of want. Although they seem to keep the energy level at an even keel, I found the album on a whole to be something of a mixed bag.

There’s no denying the brilliantly unrelenting catchiness of Skip to the End, but unfortunately not every song holds the same kind of potency. And such a clever song shouldn’t hold such an ironic meaning.

In the end and as a matter of fact, there are already a handful of bands, such as Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party, who’ve succeeded at stealing style, structure, and the shameless black void that’s left of one’s soul when both attributes are stolen from perennial bands such as The Jam and Gang of Four, only to provide fodder for pop-music snobs such as myself. I swear, the next band from England to come out with an overly influenced sound should be forced to write a 150 page thesis justifying their theft. This British Invasion is arguably the least interesting, but perhaps should be the most gratifying for long forgotten musicians such as The Godfathers, who at least had the decency to start unpacking their stolen merchandise a full fifteen years ahead of the game.

But maybe it’s because I liked those guys so much in my testosterone filled youth, that the new crop still connects to the guitar driven boys club in my head. It may not be a perfect invasion this time around, but it’s had its fair amount of strategic and tactical successes to show for all of the crime that’s taken place along the way.

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