ray lamontagne

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Video hookup

While slowly making my way through my rss feeds, I often come upon videos. Oh Youtube, enabler of so many amateur antics, sometimes you come through.

This one for sister Juliette — Damien Rice and Ray LaMontagne duet on French TV, singing “To Love Somebody.” Two extremely breathy singers, one Bee Gees song –freakin’ awesome.

Patrick Wolf, “The Magic Position” — How can I explain my love for this song (and this video)? Wolf’s in his element here, and he’s singing in his range, and if this song doesn’t make you want to dance like you’re an extra in “Singin’ In the Rain,” you have no heart :)

Xavier Rudd, “Messages.” Like a li’l environmental ad that goes straight to your eyes.

Travis, “Closer.” Fran Healy and his dimples are SO CUTE, and grocery stores seem to be magical places to film a video. I love the guy dancing with his half-gallon of milk.

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20-16

I’m going to change the blog’s focus for a little while. Partly to avoid Good Hodgkins syndrome and partly because if something is the best of 2006, it deserves a little more time than three paragraphs, and partly because I’m a writer, and I need to write about different stuff sometimes. So instead of having a wide, enormous focus like I’ve had since June (and will have again), I’m going to focus the rest of the year on the … best of the year. Hopefully it will turn out all right.

I literally spent weeks agonizing over my best of 2006 list. Is this normal? Doubtful. But I hate making lists; that is, I prefer to look at other peoples’ lists and yell, “What? Where’s so-and-so! Loser!” So now you get to yell at my list. I got my top three all right; then I had to keep going, and rearranging, and relistening … well. I actually have a top 20 now. So today we’re going to look at numbers twenty through sixteen in my list. You can click on the album for a buy link, and there will be a sample mp3 in the blue square. Keep in mind, I firmly believe that you could not go amiss buying these albums (or at least picking through them on iTunes if you’re not an album buyer).



20.
Scott H. Biram
Graveyard Shift
Bloodshot Records
Long Fingernail

In spite of some of the skeevier elements of this album, the rest of it remains impossible not to listen to. Biram’s growly lyrics conjure up those old religious days of hellfire and brimstone, when Jesus was a narrow-eyed disciplinarian, leaning over you to make sure you did your lessons right. If you did — salvation! If not, well … Biram’s there to console you.

The strongest songs on the album are at the beginning and end of the album: the middle descends into good-old-boyness and songs about trucks; too country for me. But everything starts off with a bang: “Been Down Too Long” is a great opener, with a perfect summary of Biram’s aesthetic: Well, all I want in this creation / is a good-lovin’ woman and a long vacation. “Only Jesus” is the impetus for the paragraph above, and “Long Fingernail” brings up the Devil to torment a man with a broken heart. All in all, if you ever need someone to scream with you someday, there is no one better than Biram.



19.
Nouvelle Vague
Bande A Part
The Perfect Kiss Records
Sweet & Tender Hooligan (live)

All I ever hear about this album is how it’s not as good as the first one. Lucky me, then — I never heard the first one. Also, I’m so fond of this idea that they can put out five more albums and I’ll buy into them all. How is it that a French band gets the idea to take “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” and add bossa nova to it, and then sing it so sweetly that it’s even creepier than the original? With bells and running footsteps and that heartbeat of a bass? How did that happen? It’s not a fluke, people; it’s artistry.

The strength of the covers are also the band’s weakness — if you don’t like the songs they picked, you’re not going to like the cover either. For instance, I can’t stand “Pride (In the name of love)” so a cover is so uninteresting. But if you do like the songs, the covers aren’t just given minimal makeover. “Heart of Glass” is stripped of that annoying original voice (heh! sacrilege!) and made danceable; “Human Fly” becomes punk bossa nova. Sure, maybe this is the “same old schtick” as the first album, but who else is doing this, and doing it so well? Come on now.



18.
A Hawk and A Hacksaw
The Way the Wind Blows
The Leaf Label
Song for Joseph

In this paragraph will be my only mention of “Gulag Orkestar.” I was a big fan of it, and then I got hold of “The Way the Wind Blows.” And I realized two things — the two albums are inextricable, but since I could only pick one, “The Way” is better. When you put them side-by-side (and I did — I told you I agonized about this list), Condon sounds like an insipid shadow of Fanfare Ciocarlia. His album is put together better, in that faux-concert format, but musically, A Hawk has him beat hands-down.

Which doesn’t really work anyway, because Condon plays trumpet on “The Way,” so like I said, inextricable. This is a great album, period. It has a joyful, festival feel to it, and it’s obviously a labor of love by expert musicians. My only complaint is that it sometimes makes you feel like you’re in a restaurant and some dude is playing accordion over in the corner and it just … goes on … forever. I often have to listen to the album in two sittings because I guess there’s only so much Balkan orchestra a girl can stand.




17.
Ray LaMontagne
Till the Sun Turns Black
RCA Records
Three More Days

Ray LaMontagne’s best asset is his genuinely soulful sound. Everything he sings sounds like he’s cutting out a little chunk of his heart and handing it to you. Even in the “guy-with-guitar” genre, which is super-soulful, LaMontagne manages to ratchet it up a bit. He’s got a great backing band, with piano and violin just a perfect complement. Everything works together very well.

What keeps him out of the top ten is that all the songs are really really really similar. They tend to run into one another until it’s all one big long song — a format I’m not fond of. Even “Thick As A Brick” changed up its style once in awhile. And there’s almost nothing left of the desperate howling that charged up “Trouble” or “Burn.” It’s like he’s playing a whole album underwater. Nevertheless, tracks like “Empty” or “Three More Days,” even played underwater, still blow away the competition.



16.
Vienna Teng
Dreaming Through the Noise
Zoe Records
Blue Caravan

I have such a soft spot for Teng. She’s young and sometimes silly, and I don’t even know if she counts as indie, but she’s such a great songwriter and singer and piano player. She’s beautiful and talented and if you don’t like her, you’re just a sad sad person. “Dreaming” is an excellent release. I’ve also heard the this-is-not-as-good-as- [insert-album-name-here] criticism from devoted listeners, but I can’t understand why.

It’s the same type of material she’s released before — “1 bd/1 ba” is about finding an apartment and “I Don’t Feel So Well” is apparently about grammar. Everything is semi-autobiographical, and as listeners followed Teng through her early twenties, now they can follow her into the stretching period that goes with growing up. Teng thinks, probably harder than any of us did, about turning 40, about having children, about hurricanes and gay marriage and how much to give to your spouse without losing yourself. Standout tracks: “City Hall,” “Whatever You Want,” “Recessional.”

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What’s making the rounds on the blogosphere (click on the blog links to get more mp3s):

Matt at YANP introduced the Black Bears, who I wouldn’t have thought were my kind of thing, but I like them. They’ve got a lot of potential. The lyrics are expressive and smart, and anyone who can use that many semantic variants of “immediacy” has my vote.

The Black Bears: Myspace | Label (Baskerville Hill)

The Black Bears: I Believe In Immediacy

I Am Fuel, You Are Friends put up a whole bucketful of older Ray Lamontagne recordings. I’m definitely a fan of Mr. Lamontagne — he has a solid blues ethic, and we all know how much of a sucker I am for the blues. And he has a new album coming out – you can preview his new song on his site (and very gooey it is, too. You could definitely play this one as you smooched your significant other. Upgrade!).

Ray Lamontagne: Site | Label (RCA)

Ray Lamontagne – A Stone’s Throw From Lonesome

Cable & Tweed put up a couple songs by Telegram, along with a funny description: Ever wonder what it might sound like if Morphine, The Forty-Fives, and Chris Isaak had a jam session? OK, I bit at that hook, and it hurt real good. To me it sounds like Jet had a lovechild with Veal, but that’s just me. It’s good listening, especially “Sugar Sugar,” which is a pretty sexy song. Give it a listen.

Telegram: Site | Myspace

Telegram – Sugar Sugar

Heather of I Am Fuel, You Are Friends posted up a great recap of Pearl Jam’s Denver show, complete with video of PJ and Tom Petty. It’s good to see that a band I loved so much in high school is so well received. “Ten” was the only tape I played on my walkman that I never fast-forwarded through any songs. That’s right! I HAD A WALKMAN. You kids and your digital music.

Eddie Vedder – You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away (live)

Over at The Rich Girls Are Weeping, they linked to a video for the Gossip’s “Listen Up”. I don’t like The Gossip enough to write a whole post about them — the lead falls flat at times and the sound is a little amateur. But it’s a big, big sound, with funk in it, and jazz, and Motown. Plus, the video is great — Beth Ditto is the antithesis of those idiotic females who get mega MTV play because they are “beautiful,” (read: thin and fox-faced) but can’t sing a lick. If you like Aretha and hate Ashlee, this song is for you. And there’s cowbell and crochet. Can’t go wrong there.

The Gossip: Site | Myspace | Label (Kill Rock Stars)

The Gossip – Listen Up!

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