Another CD reviews column, and one of the last (you’ll see why below). The advent of CD reviews at The Reader will actually mean that I’ll be reviewing even more CDs here in Lazy-i in the future. The Shelter Belt CD was the biggest surprise, and will probably end up on a lot of “best of” lists if they can get it in front of the critics by the end of the year.
Column 99: Local Heroes
These four Omaha releases are keepers.If the folks at The Reader are telling the truth, this will be the last time that this column will be dedicated to album reviews, as plans call for reintroducing a page of CD reviews sometime in the very near future (Hooray!). What better send-off then to review four just-released local albums, all of which deserve your hard-earned rubles.Bright Eyes, Noise Floor (Rarities: 1998-2005) (Saddle Creek Records) — This compilation of junk drawer b-sides, limited-pressing EPs, unreleased tracks and other obscura is worth it (to me, anyway) if only for rereleasing “Drunk Kid Catholic” — a song that reminds me of my favorite live BE moment from spring of 2001 when Conor and crew opened for Low at Knickerbocker’s. Originally released as a UK single, I’ve only found this track as an illegal download. Now I’m legit. Add to that the inclusion of his Britt Daniel collaboration “Spent on Rainy Days” from the split EP Home, which, before it was reissued by Post Parlo, was going for a pretty penny on e-Bay, along with just about every other out-of-print Bright Eyes rarity. Thematically, all this old stuff (though, thankfully, nothing released before ’99) dwells heavily on drinking and women and the pain that comes with both. In the end, the rocking tracks out-gun the teary acoustic numbers (but isn’t that always the way?). So yeah, it’s a no-brainer for Bright Eyes fans, but taken as a whole, the collection stands up with the best of his stuff. Now when is Saddle Creek going to rerelease that Water cassette?Simon Joyner and The Fallen Men, Skeleton Blues (Jagjaguwar) — Forget all that talk about his wonky voice and his brilliant lyrics, first and foremost, this is a band album. Standing alongside The Fallen Men, Joyner has finally released his inner-rock star, emerging cautious and slightly broken in a cloak originally tailored for the likes of Dylan. In fact, in a lot of ways this one reminds me of Dylan’s last couple of albums, cluttered and dense with musicians allowed to do their thing while their master tells tales of dark nights and loneliness. Easily the most tuneful collection Joyner’s ever released, the best moments come when the band’s allowed to stretch out, like on opening track “Open Window Blues” with its rolling bass that recalls The Doors, and the gorgeous string-laden “The Only Living Boy in Omaha,” wherein Joyner sings “Jimmy says there’s no God in the sky holding him for ransom,” in a way that instantly recalls Lou Reed. It’s not all roses. Just to remind us where he came from, Joyner ditches the band for the 10-minute closer “My Side of the Blues,” which is a struggle no matter how you slice it. Should have kept the band in the room, Simon. Maybe you should from now on.Hyannis, Hyannis (self released) — It seems appropriate to follow Oberst and Joyner with a band that surely was influenced by both, though they may not know it. No question that these youngsters are a product of the Omaha indie scene circa now. Acoustic songs like “Ronnie” and “People Just Love” have that same acoustic hippy lilt that we’ve come to know from Neva Dinova, whereas “Timeline” and “Colorado” are pure modern-day Bright Eyes (without the lyrical depth). But maybe more than the usual club of Omaha indie scenesters, Hyannis recalls an aesthetic more in common with early Pink Floyd and Haight-Ashbury psychedelic rock that precludes their existence by, oh I don’t know, a couple decades. With 13 tracks and over 40 minutes, it may be a tad bit too ambitions for a debut (which is a nice way of saying that it gets kind of boring toward the end). Are they the next generation of Omaha indie? Time will tell.Shelter Belt, Under the World Awhile (self released) — Maybe the biggest surprise so far in a year desperately in need of some surprises, Under the World… is a giant leap forward for a band that could easily have been written off after 2004’s overly long cheese factory called Rain Home. This time, frontman/vocalist Jesse Otto loses any and all comparison to Kenny Loggins, purposely throttling back his vocals so as to not get in the way of songs that reflect a sound that’s more modern than anything they’ve tried before. You could argue that tracks like the hand-clap-powered “Dry” and Timberlake-esque “So Sweet (I Have to Dance to Keep You Crying)” too obviously target radio except for the fact that these guys know they’ll never make it to nationwide FM without a miracle (though FM could do (and almost always does) much, much worse).
This is probably old news for some of you, but I just found out yesterday that Brimstone Howl will sign to Alive Records. Label owner Patrick Boissel confirmed the story yesterday via e-mail. “Yes, it’s true, although we still need to finalize the paperwork,” he said. “Dan (Auerbach) from the Black Keys wants to produce the album, and the plan is to release it this spring. I’ll post the info on the site as soon as it’s final. I’m quite excited about it, they’re the best new garage band I have heard in quite a while.” Alive has put out records by some of the country’s best garage bands, including The Black Keys, Two Gallants (now on Saddle Creek), The Bloody Hollies, Trainwreck Riders and Bufallo Killers, to name a few. After I found all this out, I discovered that the folks at Boom Chick posted the news on their site two weeks ago! Congrats to Brimstone. Catch them live Nov. 11 down at Sokol Underground.
Speaking of Sokol, there’s an interesting show there tonight featuring Anathallo, a kinda cool indie band from Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, that boasts eight members and a style that reminds me of Sufjan Stevens or Polyphonic Spree. Big sound. Lots of instruments. And the fact that Pitchfork absolutely hates them is just icing on the cake. Opening the show is Page France and local boys Life After Laserdisque. $10, 9 p.m.
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