Tag: 2004

Ryan Adams – Love Is Hell

ARTIST: Ryan Adams                               220px-Love_Is_Hell

TITLE: Love Is Hell

YEAR RELEASED: 2003 / 2004

CHART ACTION: #68 UK. Pt. 1 EP #78 US, #62 UK. Pt. 2 EP #114 EP

SINGLES: Wonderwall (#27 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Love Is Hell

LINEUP: Ryan Adams. He used two bands – one for NYC sessions the other for sessions in New Orleans. They included Greg Leisz, Ricky Fataar, and Ian McLagan, among others.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Forced to release this set as two Eps at first, Ryan Adams creates a downer masterwork. RyanAdamsLoveIsHellpt1

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The record company said it wasn’t a commercially viable product, but they did allow Adams to release this work as two EPs. When they sold well, Lost Highway reconsidered, and released it as one unit, with the addition of one track from his prior album, although in an unexpurgated version. (There’s more to the story, I’m sure. Whenever they write a Ryan Adams book, the damn things going to be 1,000 pages due to all the stories and myths).

“Political Science” isn’t the most upbeat album opener, and throughout most of the record Adams stays pretty true to the title of his work. The title track is one of his most realized and complete songs he’s ever written, and his cover of “Wonderwall” strikes a right note.

As the music moves on, Adams tries to pull everyone out of his dolorious state, with a couple of more upbeat tracks, including “Hotel Chelsea Nights”. It’s a fine capper to a fine record that shouldn’t have been shelved in the first place. RyanAdamsLoveIsHellpt2

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Adams wrote “Shadowlands” before a concert in Belfast, and opened his show with it.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Japan, of course, yet again, got bonus tracks on each EP and on the full length. Dang it.

GRADE A: He’s better when he’s contrary and bucking the system, like this.

The Thermals – Fuckin A

ARTIST: The Thermals                  220px-the_thermals_-_fuckin_a

TITLE: Fuckin A

YEAR RELEASED: 2004

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: How We Know

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Um..doubtful

LINEUP: Hutch Harris, Kathy Foster, Jordan Hudson

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The Thermals move into being a real band, and their fury lit up the Pacific Northwest.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It’s hard to believe that Hutch Harris and Kathy Foster were folkies before the Thermals, but they were. Now that Harris, Foster, and Jordan Hudson became the Thermals after Harris recoded and album under that name, there’s no ‘folk’ here, unless it’s the punk rock for the people as the new ‘folk’.

Harris’ guitar screams and howls, much like his vocals on many tracks. Foster’s bass is in the Laura Balance mode, distortion and volume and working in lockstep with drums. There’s definitely passion and fire here.

It’s under 30 minutes long, but it doesn’t seem like a rip-off. Harris’ vocals and lyrics point to the anger the youth felt about the world in the mid-2000’s. A leap forward and worthy of your catalog.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This was recorded in four days, in a studio (unlike their debut)

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE A-: The Thermals were a hidden gem of the 2000’s, and this record truly started them toward toward their glory days.

Jascha Ephraim – Jascha Ephraim

ARTIST: Jascha Ephraim                       MI0001416559

TITLE:  Jascha Ephraim

YEAR RELEASED: 2004

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: It is highly unlikely, unless you have friends who love to mix obscure tracks for you

LINEUP: Jascha Ephraim.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Interesting one man electropop band’s CD release has some catchy and witty numbers, with a few lyrical cringes.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: One-man (or woman) bands used to be unusual in the times of analog tape and the need of a studio-like space. However, with all of the tools we have in the present era, it’s easier for musicians to do everything themselves. That doesn’t make it any less remarkable – as you still need to conceive and perform all of the melodies, arrangements, harmonies, and other niceties and perform them.

Jascha Ephraim, seemingly a renaissance man into film, writing, software engineering, and Buddhism, recorded and released this collection in 2005, and it’s still available out there on Amazon. This record is definitely not serious, with bright and tuneful melodies and a pleasing (and not cloying) synth pop accompaniment. There’s some funk, some pop, a bit of guitar-rock, and generally a cornucopia of styles.

Ephraim is witty and somewhat twisted at times, with songs like “Raining Astronauts” and “Hebrew Screwup”. There’s a lot of variation in musical themes and motifs as well. Yet at times, I cringed at some of the lyrics and a couple of tracks went on a bit longer to where it seemed indulgent. However, it’s mostly an accomplished record that’s fun, snarky, and enjoyable.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There are four tracks called “Baby Time” which are home recordings with Ephraim and his mother at age two.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE: B+: Some tracks will stick with you for a long time thanks to their melodies and arrangements.

The Avett Brothers – Mignonette

ARTIST: The Avett Brothers         220px-Mignonette_album

TITLE:  Mingonette

YEAR RELEASED: 2004

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Swept Away

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: There are three more ‘Pretty Girl’ songs

LINEUP: Seth Avett, Scott Avett, Bob Crawford, Bonnie Avett Rini

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The Avett Brothers are solidly in a folk / bluegrass idiom with great harmonies and songwriting featuring sister Bonnie. But it’s LONG.

 

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It’s great that a band has a lot of material – but in the CD era, it led to excesses. At 73 minutes, this record demonstrates that even with a lot of good to great material, it’s best to trim off the fat.

 

There are a couple of tracks that can go – silly goofs that add nothing to the proceedings, given that the band sounds like they are having fun with fun songs anyway. Those tracks just get in the way of everything and disturb the flow. Fortunately, those tracks are the minority.

 

As for the others – there’s great banjo and mandolin picking, great harmonies, and it sounds like a backyard party. Good times.

 

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The song “Signs” was written by their father Jim Avett, in the 70’s

 

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 

GRADE: A-: Trim it a bit, and it’s an “A”. Heck of a fun time.

The Helio Sequence – Love and Distance

ARTIST: The Helio Sequence       Love_and_Distance

TITLE: Love and Distance

YEAR RELEASED: 2004

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Doubt it

LINEUP: Brandon Summers, Benjamin Weikel

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Third album (first one that’s still streaming) by the electronics / drum / guitar duo doesn’t dazzle.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: There’s some things to like about this third record by the Helio Sequence. To be sure, they know their way around poppy melodies, and atmospheric elements in guitar and keyboards. “Repeater”, the second song on the disc (not a Fugazi cover, chumps) gets things off to a decent start.

Yet, something’s missing. Not a lot, but something. Maybe it’s the dynamic quality and same-sameness of the songs as you reach the middle and the end. The band also kind of locks into a tempo that’s slower than you like, as if speeding up would be a bad thing – and this tempo keeps going on to many songs.

It sounds nice, it’s just…it’s there. You can nap to it, despite the electronic trickery, and that may not be the best thing.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They had two albums on a very small label before this one.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B-: It’s not bad…just blah at times.

The Hold Steady – Almost Killed Me

ARTIST: The Hold Steady                     220px-The_Hold_Steady_-_Almost_Killed_Me_cover

TITLE: Almost Killed Me

YEAR RELEASED: 2004

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Not on the album proper.

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The Swish

LINEUP: Craig Finn, Tad Kubler, Galen Polivka, Judd Counsell. Franz Nicolay is a guest here.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After the end of Lifter Puller, Craig Finn formed a for real bar band that spins tales of losers and other seedy characters.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Craig Finn was the driving force of Lifter Puller, and after that band’s demise, he and Tad Kubler and Galen Polivka formed the band in New York.

This album is based on characters developed from Finn’s background in Minneapolis, and is cohesive in that sense. Finn’s rambling, seemingly stream-of-conscious vocals belie a strong rock-oriented band that can cook underneath tales of Charlemagne and others from that circle

Finn’s vocals may not be everyone’s cup of tea, since some people prefer the front man sing, as it were. Get over it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The inspiration for the Hold Steady came from the Band, as Finn wondered why there weren’t bands like that anymore.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Five extra cuts in Australia, including their first single.

GRADE: A-: A bit shaggy, but it rocks.

Jem – Finally Woken

ARTIST: Jem                                    220px-jem_-_finally_woken

TITLE:  Finally Woken

YEAR RELEASED: 2004

CHART ACTION: #197 US, #11 Heatseekers, #6 UK

SINGLES: They (#6 UK), Just a Ride (#16 UK), Wish I (#24 UK), 24 (#98 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Maybe some songs on soundtracks

LINEUP: Jem Griffiths, Paul Herman, Justin Griffiths, Danny Griffin, Yoad Nevo, Israel Nachum

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Pop singer-songwriter’s album is full of songs she gave to soundtracks in a new way to market herself, and most everything is successful in establishing her as a new, smart voice.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Jem’s debut album has a lot going for it. The production is modern, yet doesn’t overwhelm the material. It’s varied enough to not blur together, and her melodies are catchy and hooky, but not in a simple way.

Jem’s voice is warm and inviting, even when she’s snarky and sardonic. She’s not trying to be the ‘it’ girl – she’s out to create electronic pop with artistic flourishes on her terms.

At times, though the eclecticism is its worst enemy, as the flow of the album at times seems disjointed. Still, it’s a welcome debut that gives relief fro the pop divas.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: She licensed many of these songs to commercial interests which helped spread the word about her album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A bonus track from, guess where, Japan!

GRADE: A-: It worms your way into your heart and ears.

Umphrey’s McGee – Anchor Drops

ARTIST: Umphrey’s Mcgee                                 umphreys_mcgee-anchor_drops

TITLE:  Anchor Drops

YEAR RELEASED: 2004

CHART ACTION: No

SINGLES: No

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: If you’re a fan, yeah, you ate this up.

LINEUP: Brendan Bayliss, Jake Cinninger, Joel Cummins, Ryan Stasik, Kris Myers, Andy Farag

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Jam band shows their musical versatility, but some songs still seem like skeletons used to jam all over the place in concert.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: I’m of two minds of this album. Some of these tracks are pretty solid start to finish as self-contained tracks, and still others feel like they’re just a blueprint for jams.

That’s all well and good, and they do show off a bit as musicians, but songs are the thing on albums and sometimes they don’t quite measure up in that department.

Still, the playing is great and the vocals are decent (with harmonies thrown in there), but more substance and less flash could have made this a killer.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This was the first album by them that got national distribution, instead of mainly being sold at shows.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B+: Could be better, but it’s about the best modern jam band record around.

John Legend – Get Lifted

ARTIST: John Legend             220px-johnlegend-getlifted1

TITLE:  Get Lifted

YEAR RELEASED: 2004

CHART ACTION: #4 US, #1 R&B, #12 UK

SINGLES: Used to Love U (#74 US, #32 R&B, #29 UK), Ordinary People (#24 US, #30 Dance, #4 R&B, #4 UK), Number One (#86 R&B, #62 UK), So High (#105 US, #53 R&B, #118 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Let’s Get Lifted

LINEUP: John Legend with collaborations from Kanye, Snoop Dog, the Stephens Family, Lauren Hill and Min Ben-Ari. Kanye produced and many studio musicians were around.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After many collaborations, Legend releases his first proper solo album and cements his place in the R&B and pop music pantheon.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After working with the royalty of R&B and soul thanks to his connection with Kanye West, John Legend’s first solo album came out in late 2004 and he became a star in his own right.

Legend shows his influences, mostly old school soul from the past, but his work with Kanye and others filter those sounds with today’s engineering and production. Most of his songs were definitely about love and relationships, and his love songs definitely evoke a Marvin Gaye or Smokey Robinson feeling.

It’s an enjoyable album. Definitely radio friendly and good for listening and relaxing. There is some variety so it’s not all in the same old, same old as the hits. A fine start for a career that’s going strong.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Legend” was given to him by poet J. Ivy.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 

GRADE: B+:  A good modern R&B record for you and your honey.

Battles – EP C / B EP

ARTIST: Battles                                                      220px-Battles_-_EP_C_B_EP_-2006-

TITLE:  EP C / B EP

YEAR RELEASED: 2006

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: TRAS

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None

LINEUP: David Knopka, John Stanier, Ian Williams, Tyondai Braxton

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Complex, complicated, mostly instrumental experimental rock that utilizes loops, repeated patterns and effects. 220px-Battles_-_EP_C_-2004-

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The term ‘math rock’ is an interesting one (said in a Minnesota way), but it almost works for Battles. The band does take a cold and calculating view toward music and their work.

This is the compilation of two separate EP releases into one album, with no real duplication between tracks. Heck, no real titles for the most part either, with tracks name “B+T”, IPT2”, etc. The music is rigid at times, but complicated in its rhythms and patterns.

Battles is a band that is trying to challenge and push forward in their own style. This means it’s not always easy listening, nor compelling. But challenging is always good in of itself.220px-Battles_-_B_EP_-2004-

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Both of the EPs were released in 2004, but I’m treating them as one release here.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: B: I get what they’re doing. Casual fans may not want to dive in right here, but it is intriguing.