CD Reviews – October – 2006

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Dylan’s first album in five years may be one of the best of his career

 

Bob Dylan

Modern Times

Columbia Records

4.5 out of 5

Bob Dylan’s prophet-like reputation is largely due to the misconceived notions that many have been made about him throughout his career. Of course, Dylan himself has helped fuel the fire by seldom doing interviews and when he does he often weaves a very vague web of answers. Now, after his last two albums, Time out of Mind and Love & Theft, made substantial waves with critics and fans, Dylan has returned with his first album in five years.

The latest album Modern Times received a fair amount of speculation long before anybody had really heard it.

Some of the more popular rumors about the record included that many of the lyrics are lifted from poet Henry Timrod, and that Modern Times is the last chapter in a trilogy started with Time out of Mind. While it may be true that Timrod’s work has influenced Dylan, there is no instance of plagiarism on Modern Times. As for a trilogy, Dylan stated in a brief but recent interview with Rolling Stone that he never intended the records as a trilogy and if he had, he would have considered Love and Theft as the starting point.

Modern Times is a fairly sparse record both lyrically and musically. While Love and Theft featured deep lyrical meditations like “Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dum,” Modern Times features simple, laid back songs like “When The Deal Goes Down.”

Overall, Modern Times is reminiscent of the loose vibes of Under the Red Sky, Down in the Groove and even, at times, Highway 61 Revisited.

Dylan has always played down his role as some sort of voice for the ’60s generation. A recent book of his past interviews published by Wenner Books clearly shows that Dylan has always considered himself a musician and an individual instead of part of some greater cause.

With Modern Times, Dylan manages to focus on that and as a result he has made one of the best records of his career.

   DJ Hippie

 

Ween’s Shinola Vol. 1 a perfect fit for those already initiated

 

Ween

Shinola, Vol. 1

MVD Audio

3.5 out of 5

If you don’t love Ween, you probably won’t dig Shinola, Vol. 1 too much, but if you’re already hooked on Gene and Dean Ween, Shinola is going to be the equivalent to finding the perfect outfit in the back of your neighborhood thrift store.

Originally released by Ween’s own Chocodog label, Shinola Vol. 1 is the first in a series of rarities collections by the ever-wacky Pennsylvania-based duo. Here Dean and Gene Ween’s giddy, genre-hopping sound careens from distorted lo-fi ditties (the bizarre “Tastes Good on th’ Bun”) to surprisingly straightforward pop/rock tunes (the blatantly Elvis Costello-like “Gabrielle,” and the amazingly beautiful “Did You See Me?”).

While this isn’t the best starting point for newcomers to the band’s absurd world (that would be The Mollusk or Chocolate and Cheese), Shinola Vol. 1 is sure to entertain the Ween faithful.

“Shinola is a collection of odds, ends and leftovers from around our studio and contains killer new mixes of a lot of songs that have been floating around the web in really crappy fidelity for a long time,” said Dean Ween in a press release. “There will be more of these to come in the future. It’s an ugly one. You really wanna pick this up. I’m not shitting you. This record has been a long time in coming.”

   Brian F. Johnson

 

Annie Stela is stellar on debut EP

 

Annie Stela

There is a Story Here

Capitol Records

3 out of 5

Annie Stela is set to release her Capitol Records debut Fool in January of 2007, but in time for a tour she has put out There’s a Story Here, a collection of four songs, three from her impending full-length. If you’re a fan of Sarah McLachlan, you’ll gravitate to this songstress, whose soaring melodies are as crisp as the Midwestern snow where she grew up.

— Brian F. Johnson

:: Annie Stela :: supporting Joseph Arthur  :: Bluebird Theatre :: October 8 ::

 

GogoLab’s stakeout is high crime

 

GogoLab

The Stakeout

Dance Research Records

3 out of 5

GogoLab is a shoe-in for one of the most fun and original acts to come out of Colorado in recent years. The instrumental power trio, which just released its debut full-length The Stakeout, claims that it’s on a mission to re-examine the sound of ’60s and ’70s film and television through the lens of contemporary dance music — a world of double agents, renegade cops, car chases, cat suits and hip-shaking girls. The Stakeout is fun, funny, and one hell of a great groove that sounds like Medeski, Martin and Wood meets James Bond in a dark alley.                     — Brian F. Johnson

 

Don’t Die Cindy is radio worthy

 

Don’t Die Cindy

Most Imperfect Skies

Cake Records

4 out of 5

Don’t Die Cindy has the potential to drip all over the MTV “Afterhours” playlist. They might be Jimmy Eat World on vacation, they might be Fallout Boy’s cooler older brother, but whatever they are it’s complex, desperate and radio-worthy. Don’t Die Cindy’s album Most Perfect Skies is opened with the pop-punk “Wrong Side of Town,” while “Unclothed & Honest” is the six minutes that proves the band worthy of the occasional Radiohead fan. 

Patrick Hosey (vocals, guitar and keyboard) explained it best: “This record is about trying to find your way to the truth. It’s about lying in bed at night wondering if God is real or not; wondering how you find love; wondering what you’re even here on Earth for.”

While the album has been done a thousand times before under the alias of endless one-hit-wonders, Don’t Die Cindy does it damn well and may even have some staying power.

— Alex Samuel

 

Favourite Sons confronts the ‘big stuff’

 

Favourite Sons

Down Beside Your Beauty

Vice Records

4 out of 5

“This band exists to talk about the things you go through when you confront the big stuff: love, regret, fear,” said Ken Griffin, the singer and principle songwriter of Favourite Sons. Griffin was the creative force behind the hugely influential but often overlooked ’90s art rock band Rollerskate Skinny. After R.S. fell apart, Griffin entered a dark world of drink and drugs and was away from music for nearly a decade, until a fan found him bartending and continued to pester him about his music. That started the ball rolling on what eventually became Favourite Sons. Grounded by Griffin’s confessional lyrics and the band’s thundering guitars and rhythm section, Down Beside Your Beauty has nothing to hide and a world of courageous conceits to offer. What you hear is what you get and what you get is nothing short of rock music stripped down to its most visceral elements — delivered with power, conviction and complete honesty.

   Brian F. Johnson

 

Adelman’s Henry’s Diner is majestic

 

Todd Adelman

Henry’s Diner

Independent

4.5 out of 5

Todd Adelman’s Henry’s Diner is, simply put, brilliant. The Nederland, Colo.-based songwriter conjures up moments of Bob Dylan, Gram Parsons and seems to be the twin brother of the Portland-based band Richmond Fontaine with this release. Henry’s Diner is a collection of melancholy, semi-twangy story-telling that not only embraces but actually defines roots folk Americana in all of its glorious simplicity and simultaneous lyrical complexity. Adelman has hit the nail on the head here.

— Brian F. Johnson

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