By John Lane
Two things I want to get out of the away in the beginning of this review: Comparisons have been floated already in numerous reviews about this new album. The first is the comparison to The Beach Boys’ SMILE; while flattering perhaps to them in a remote way, I cannot think of a more off-base touchstone. To compare Mosaics Within Mosaics to SMILE is like visiting a wax museum and comparing the waxworks (SMILE) to the Easter Island statues (Mosaics). This is not to denigrate SMILE or Mosaics Within Mosaics, but rather to illustrate that the two albums occupy two entirely different planets not worthy of comparison. It’s like gazing at the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, observing the moustaches, and then saying the whole thing reminds you of The Village People because, you know, moustaches.
The second point of contention is the casual throw-around of the word “psychedelic” in all these reviews. Again, lazy and misleading, as the term itself has a sort of anachronistic dusty taint to it—would Steve Reich be considered psychedelic because of his experimentation with form and structure? I feel like the old person shaking his head at a young woman wearing styles that were unflattering in “my day.”
After a decade of not recording together, roots rock band The Last Hombres have reunited for Odd Fellows Rest. Noted for being the band that Levon Helm asked to join, The Last Hombres make what could be considered bar band music: bluesy guitars, that certain middle of the road tempo, sing along choruses. The thing that sets The Last Hombres apart and far above the fray is their outstanding musicianship. Each song is like a master class on how to play with technical excellence as well as passion and is paired with literate lyrics.
You can call Jim Mize a lot of things: eccentric, a hopeless romantic, and a visionary. You can also call him a great storyteller in the fine Southern tradition of raconteurs. On his latest release, the self-titled Jim Mize, he makes snapshots through well-placed words and his singular guitar work. The album feels rooted in the South in music and lyrics, though there’s not much that explicitly states it. But the South gets in, like kudzu, and Mize is an Arkansas native. It’s in the water. Or the air. Or possibly the dirt.
After a hiatus of three years, during which the album was already mostly finished, Frog Eyes’ Carey’s Cold Spring was self-released by Carey Mercer through Bandcamp last October, and is now being released by Paperbag Records on vinyl and CD.
There’s a gorgeous easiness to Two Moons, the latest album by singer/songwriter Tom Freund. It’s a sunny, low-key, nostalgic record that was funded by a PledgeMusic campaign. It’s the kind of record that you put on after a dreadful day, one that uplifts and feels like a perfect secret, full of fine musicianship and sagacious lyrics.
You know those TV shows that have artful music direction, like early Supernatural or Friday Night Lights or Parenthood (Jason Katims, I salute you!)? The ones that use quietly epic, devastating songs that push Matt Saracen’s story forward or underscore Sam and Dean’s struggle beautifully in a way that mere words can’t do, perhaps with an acoustic flourish? Anders Parker has written that record. There’s A Blue Bird In My Heart is packed with songs that have a quietly epic quality—the kind you feel deep down in your heart and guts.
As a young record buyer, all I needed to know about decadence, I learned from Marc Almond. His records taught me about Jacques Brel, euphemisms for masturbation, the grand alienation of aging out of your passions—you know, the stuff of life.
Now, ages later, it’s delightful to know Marc Almond hasn’t tamed his decadent leanings, and that both his writing and voice have gotten better with time. He was always a fine writer, able to capture a moment or a mood with an artfully placed word and a bit of cleverness. He wasn’t always the greatest of singers, though he did show that with passion and a well-versed torch song, you could overcome any vocal limitations. Don’t dream it, be it, and all that.
It’s got to be tough to be in the same racket as your old man. If you were brought up in his footsteps and following his path, and heaven forbid, if you have the same name as him, then there’s always going to be that comparison, that competition. Then imagine if you were a musician and you made the same kind of music that your Pops made, and that he was one of the greatest jazz/swing musicians of all time. You’d really have to bring your A-game always.
Imagine being thrown through a fortieth story window. Hear that rush of wind in your ears, the whistling and howling blotting out everything but your own panicked shrieks, your clothing ripping and flapping in the wind, pounding out a flat parachute rhythm as you continue to plummet, a failed bird, picking up speed, the ground rushing towards you (or vice versa) and even if you aren’t precisely sure where you’re landing, you know it’s going to be hard and it’s going to hurt. There’s nothing to do but resign yourself to it, embrace it, and let whatever happens happen.
That description fairly accurately echoes the first sixty seconds of Easy Pain by Louisville band Young Widows. There are still nine more songs to go.
Not everyone can write a song about the News International phone hacking scandal and make it sound jaunty. Glenn Tilbrook, however, can and did.
On his fifth non-Squeeze album Happy Endings, Tilbrook took a different approach—going acoustic. The result is a warm, witty, sometimes slight album (but what does Glenn Tilbrook have to prove at this point? The man can rest on his clever laurels all he wants.) that is always engaging. It’s a lovely sounding album, as well, with lush strings and clever percussion.