The Lemonheads: Varshons

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The Lemonheads: Varshons (Bad Taste, 2009)

I’m a big fan of The Lemonheads and Evan Dando. The Lemonheads have given us several great cover versions in the past and therefore making a cover record might seem like a good idea. Usually it’s a horrible idea and eventhough for The Lemonheads the idea doesn’t sound too bad, the end result is still  rather dissapointing. Varshons does contain some really good stuff, but there’s just isn’t enough of it for a full-lenght album.

A good thing is that Evan Dando haven’t selected the obvious songs to cover and instead have made some obscure choices.  For example picking a rare Gram Parsons song I Just Can’t Take It Anymore instead of a Gram classic is great idea. Gram’s shadow isn’t hanging too close above and the song sounds almost exactly like 90’s The Lemonheads (okay, I admit I’m a fanboy stuck in the past and one of the reasons I’m not so into this cover disc is that overall, it doesn’t sound like The Lemonheads I fell in love with).  Too bad Evan didn’t do the same thing with Townes Van Zandt and selected Waiting Around To Die. He might have pulled of some rare Townes number, but now I’m just left wondering how is it possible to make one of the best songs ever written sound so lame. I admit it’s a bit personal thing as well. If I had to choose the 10 greatest songs ever, this would be one of them. I love it to bits and I probably wouldn’t approve any other versions than the original. Dirty Robot is probably painfully bad, but how would I know for sure. I really can’t even listen to it. I refuse to even think about it. On a positive note, Wire cover Fragile is a great one and garage classic Green Fuz is another treat. How about 7″ inch cover EP with I Just Can’t It Anymore as A-side and those to as the b-sides. Now that would be worth all five hearts..

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The Duke & The King: Nothing Gold Can Stay

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The Duke & The King: Nothing Gold Can Stay (Loose Records, 2009)

One more american record… or maybe the american record of the year. Okay, some treasures like The Avett Brothers album haven’t been released yet, so let’s not start making those end of the year lists now. However, The Duke & The King have really created an almost perfect album and I have completely fallen in love with it.

The Duke & The King are Simone Felice & Robert “Chicken” Burke. Simone Felice was the drummer for The Felice Brothers which is one of my favourite bands and therefore I had really high hopes for The Duke & The King, but I still wouldn’t have guessed I would end up loving this even more than any The Felice Brothers album (that’s a lot of love, almost like an overdoze). Simone Felice is also an author and it’s no wonder that  Nothing Gold Can Stay is lyrically strong and contains heartbreaking storytelling wrapped into beautiful americana, folk and even country-soul songs.  The characters of the songs have met the darker corners of life, but there’s a sense of vulnerable optimism around. I kind of love the simplicity of the record. It might even sound lazy, but this bare and sensitive approach is always the best way to go.. if you can write songs, you don’t need to hire the royal philharmonic orchestra. Especially If You Ever Get Famous, The Morning I Get To Hell, Union Street, Water Spider, Summer  Morning Rain and One More American Song are utterly wonderful songs and Nothing Gold Can Stay is one of the finest albums of the year.

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The Duke & The King at myspace
 

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Haruko: Wild Geese

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Haruko: Wild Geese (Bracken Records, 2009)

I’m not sure does it make me a sad case that I’ve always considered records as my friends. Maybe it’s the fantasy land of an anti-social boy/man/whatever, but that’s the way I want to treat records. After all, these treasures can learn to know more about you than your closest friends.. Well I suppose if ones writes gushing emotion-filled reviews about these friends, the “real” friends might learn to know the same feelings that were born when one’s heart and the core of the record melted together..

Haruko is a german folk singer-songwriter Susanne Stanglow whose debut album Wild Geese has become a good friend of mine. We’ve shared a lot of quality time together during the summer nights. When I’ve been walking around the sleeping city, Wild Geese have guided and guarded my path. When I’ve been reading a crime novel, Haruko’s beautiful phrasing have injected so much warmth into the characters that even the evil ones are ready to give up life of crime. When I’ve felt sad & stressed, Wild Geese have flown through the headphones, captured the emotions, made them stronger for a while before taking away the surface layer and revealing all the good stuff I failed to see.

Wild Geese is intimate and hauntingly beautiful. Even when you are taken into a fairytales it somehow manages to feel very personal. Eventhough I’ve never slept out underneath the stars and can’t build a fire to safe my life, Haruko brings the nature so close to my heart that suddenly becoming an outdoor type doesn’t seem like a bad option. It’s a very beautifully crafted folk album and eventhough these are home recordings, it sounds absolutely wonderful to me. A huge studio treatment couldn’t have made a significant improvement, but in a worst case it might have killed the down-to-earth warmness of the songs. There might be a lot of more high profile folk releases out there, but most of them will struggle to hold so much charming magic and fragile melancholic beauty inside them.

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Haruko at myspace
Bracken Records Website

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Cheap Star: Speaking Like An Elephant

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Cheap Star: Speaking Like an Elephant (Z&Zoe Records, 2009)

Cheap Star is this french pop band I mentioned a while back whose album was partly produced by Jon Auer and partly by Ken Stringfellow. Like I said I ordered the album and now when I’ve been listening to it for a few days I have to say this is even greater than I ever could have imagined. I really can’t picture a fan of power pop who wouldn’t love this. Well maybe someone could complain that it sounds too much like The Posies, because it really does sound like them an awfully lot. And well having Ken and Jon singing bit of harmonies and adding a bit of sounds from Frosting On The Beater here and there does not really help me to get rid of that image. However, I don’t mind at all. I love The Posies and now I love Cheap Star.

Obviously it’s not just The Posies connection that I love about them. It may be the reason why I found them, but it’s their own excellent song material and that gorgeous singing that keeps me interested. This is just high quality pop album full of gorgeous melodies and beautiful harmonies. There’s also enough variation to maintain your interest. A lot of Guided By Voices in the title track, some of that Frosting On The Beater-ish power pop elsewhere and a plenty of pure and soft pop gems wrapped around them. Speaking Like An Elephant is a slice of pop heaven and it’s totally my kind of album. It might not be the most original release you’ll ever hear, but it perfectly captures all that was great in the 90’s power pop and beautifully brings it back to life. A truly wonderful album. Just give me a few more days  and I probably will change that grade to full five hearts. Part of me would like to do that already.

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Cheap Star at myspace

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