karsh kale

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[Forgive any spelling errors (if I missed something). I was up half the night with an annoying almost-two-year-old.]

Rhett Miller
The Believer
The Verve Forecast
Fireflies (with Rachel Yamagata)

It’s no secret how much I love alt-country, and Rhett Miller embodies everything that’s right about it. No pretensions here (except perhaps in the area of his hair and his purple suit), no tarting up country to make it sound like something else. No screwing around with the format, damn it. It doesn’t need tarting up; it just needs broken hearts and love and sadness and Miller’s signature voice on “My Valentine” mourning, you say you love me / but you treat me unkind.

I read that the title track was also written as a reaction to Elliott Smith’s suicide, something that might interest all you Smith fans. Miller addresses a variety of themes, including the adorably cheesy “Question,” which ends the disc with on a note of sweet optimism.

Karsh Kale
Broken English
Six Degrees
Dancing At Sunset

“Broken English” is like the ultimate mashup, where instead of combining two songs, Kale combines three cultures. And of course it’s all original, so no one gets sued. And it’s perfect for the car, the grocery store, or whatever mundane errand needs a little spice.

Kale called the disc “Broken English” in reaction to the assumption that some people made about him — that he is Indian, so he couldn’t possibly speak English well. They are, of course, wrong, and Kale laughs at their shallowness with his flawless prose: People want to be free / free to decide / free to follow the wind / to see what they may find.

Casiotone For the Painfully Alone
Toby Take A Bow

Casiotone For the Painfully Alone has no equivalent; if you’re a fan, you’re a fan, and if you’re not, you’re off listening to something else anyway. It must be nice to be free of anxiety of influence; the only previous releases Ashworth has to be worried about are his own.

The album is just full of standalone pieces, each one telling a story: the strange, defiant Toby; Bobby Malone, who has to go back to his folks; the girl who wishes last night had never happened; the boy who is desperate to know where his lover has come back from. Ashworth (and sometimes Jenn Herbinson, and a rotating cast of backup) bring you into the story, and then part of it stays with you. Or perhaps you never leave it.

Amy Millan
Honey From the Tombs
Arts & Crafts
Come Home Loaded Roadie

From beginning to end, Millan spins a perfect ambience of country-rock-folk around the listener. Whiskey is mentioned, and broken hearts, and someone is called “baby.” I love it; I love every minute of it. It’s only as far down on the list as it is because it’s not new in any way. But it’s so flawless that I will probably end up listening to it most often next year.

Millan’s voice is perfect for the material; when she sings, what’s the use / you go to war at daybreak / so pour me up another before bed, you’re at the bar with her and she’s telling you all about it, and you understand perfectly, even if you have no broken heart of your own. What I’m trying to say is, she brings out the whiskey in us all.

Dreamt For Light Years In the Belly Of A Mountain
See the Light

Mark Linkous was creating rock tinged with alt-country before it had a cool moniker, which makes it even sweeter that he can turn out such a beautiful piece of poetry eleven years after “vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot.” If you overlook Sparklehorse for any reason, you are missing out on North Carolina’s best export.

Whatever Linkous has gone through in the past few years, it seems it’s only made him stronger. I stayed in a lake of fire / my bed was an ancient pyre, he sings in “See the Light,” and his poetic gift turns the music from simply mic-whispering into something almost oracular, foretelling your future in his own burning experience.

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Karsh Kale

When you listen to Karsh Kale, I dare you not to dance. You can do a little wiggling around in your chair at work; you can nod your head slightly on the Metro; or you can full-out go crazy in your kitchen. But you won’t be able to sit still. The soul of Kale’s music is in the beat, and the body is the fusion of Indian, American, and English music into something truly accessible.

Songs on his new release “Broken English” range from the slow melancholy of “Beautiful” to the rocketing dance beat of “Hole In the Sky” or “Rise Up.” It’s not club music, as in you just want to hear it in the club because it’s boring elsewhere; and it’s not just Bollywood pop — it’s smart and tasty. The ability to fuse musical cultures isn’t just something you do by magic, and Kale’s artistry is apparent in every track. He even has a section on his site that explains how each song was written and what his motivations were (like nifty CD liner notes, only I didn’t have to pay $18.99 for them, which is excellent). And even cooler, on the site you can stream every single song from Broken English, as well as some remixes and b-sides. Go have a listen — and I dare you not to dance out and buy “Broken English.”

Karsh Kale – Site | Myspace | Label (Six Degrees)

[These tracks have been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]

Karsh Kale – Hole in the sky
Karsh Kale – New Born Star