Friday, March 18, 2011

The Civil Wars | Barton Hollow

With so much tragedy and strife in the world, the soft and simple coming together of two voices and two musical paths soothes the troubled heart. The Civil Wars is Nashville based, California born Joy Williams, already a music veteran at the young age of 29 and Alabama's John Paul White. Both are accomplished vocalists, songwriters, and instrumentalists who met at a writing camp in 2008. There was a spark of musical recognition between them and they decided to work together. They have just released "Barton Hollow" on Sensibility Records, a record label started by Williams and her husband Nate.

Their band name is beautifully provocative and apt for musicians who have differing musical sensibilities, but what the record reveals is a civil union of their different stylistic approaches to music making. Williams comes from a more pop sensibility and White from a more alt-country one. The resulting dynamic tension is the fuel they travel on. Standout tracks are "20 Years", "I've Got This Friend" and the only instrumental on the album, "The Violet Hour".

Friday, March 11, 2011

R.E.M.| Collapse Into Now

Michael Stipe sings "oh my heart, oh my heart", the refrain in the song of the same name on R.E.M.'s new album "Collapse Into Now". His voice rises to each note, precise, pleading and full of emotion. His vocal delivery has a new simplicity and brilliance that sets the tone for the whole record. "It's sweet and it's sad and it's true, how it doesn't look bitter on you." Here is R.E.M. 2011, 30 years in.

On this, their 15th album, the band takes stock of itself. Older, wiser, still searching, and relaxing into their emerging sound. Evidently, Patti Smith, a friend and collaborator on this and 1996's "New Adventures in Hi-Fi", suggested the title of the album. Nice. Long time Patti Smith guitar player Lenny Kaye, Eddie Vedder and Peaches make appearances. Jackknife Lee, the producer of R.E.M.'s last record, "Accelerate" returns to produce. The band has no plans to tour in support of the album, citing tour fatigue. "I just don't want to," says Michael Stipe.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Adele | 21

“As soon as I got a microphone in my hand, when I was about 14, I realized I wanted to do this,” Adele says. “Most people don’t like the way their voice sounds when it’s recorded. I was just so excited by the whole thing that I wasn't bothered what it sounded like.”

This part of Adele's story is at the heart of her popularity. Underlying all the musical talent that she possesses, the skill in her songwriting and delivery, the powerful vocal technique that feels like it's just the tip of the iceberg of what is yet to come in her career, lies the fact that Adele is completely at home in her music. There is no space between her and it. This authenticity is so appealing and it makes it easy to find a place at her table.

Multiple producers including Rick Rubin worked on the record. Paul Epworth, Ryan Tedder, Fraser Smith doubled on producing and co-writing tracks. Dan Wilson co-wrote three. Adele covers Robert Smith's "Love Song", paying respects to The Cure, the first band she saw in concert -she was three years old.(!) Now 22, she's the one on stage. Her concert tour starts in Olso, Norway on the first full day of spring, March 21st, and she comes to the States in May.