Sky Blue Sky
Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy never really relinquished the role of passionate music fan when he achieved rock-star status himself. Perhaps this explains why his band consistently makes such interesting records that speak to so many people. Their sixth studio set (not counting their acclaimed work with Billy Bragg) is no exception.
Having gradually settled into a lineup that makes good sense, the boys are now playing tighter than ever before. Though understated in their delivery, Wilco’s collective virtuosity shines through here as the band brilliantly frames its obtuse poetry (about romance, mental illness, spirituality, etc.) with an assortment of folk-flavored pop and funky, elongated grooves.
It may require several listens for the lyrical content to take hold, but from the get-go, this disc has a very pleasant and compressed sound. Before you rend your garments and shake your fists at Tweedy, let this one wash over you. All 12 tracks will grab you before long. To be sure, Sky Blue Sky is a subtle beauty. —Kevin M. Wilson
Opening — cinematic — Massive Attack meets Morricone.
“All My Heroes Are Weirdos” — very largely indebted to ’80s Clash and Gang of Four, ESG and Blondie; they try to fix the Clash (capturing the best elements of the beating-on-trash-can rhythms, the thickly plucked peak funk and post-punk guitars and bass; stylized and stylish if too fashion-conscious vocals which betray deeply middle-class Western roots) while not repeating the mistakes (i.e., sides of Sandinista!).
“Sweet Life” — Meters in Nigeria chicken scratch riffs ’n’ grooves, lots of letters (musical notes?), post-Beck falsetto.
“Yadnus” — implied industrial sounds/subway car. T. Rex crashes car into John Barry James Bond theme.
“Bend Over Beethoven” — Is this a different song? For realz?
“Break in Case of Anything” — “Breakin’ 3: Electric Dub Vegas.”
“Infinifold” — end credits. Grab your jacket and toss your popcorn bag. Catch !!! on this Friday night at Headliners. Doors open at 9 p.m. —Peter Berkowitz
Woke on a Whaleheart
As an Elephant 6 enthusiast, I will pretty much buy any record that looks like it was designed by a 6-year-old on LSD. Hopefully, this will give you enough background to understand why I was extremely saddened to hear Woke on a Whaleheart.
There’s nothing wrong with this CD. Nothing at all. In fact, if it had just had a picture of an egg timer or something on the cover, I probably would have liked it. (It falls into the category of singer-songwriter music that I find tolerable. Bill Callahan has a gravelly voice, and likes to play the mandolin sometimes.) You’re sort of expecting someone to play a saw or a melodica or a recorder. You are not expecting this country-tinged pop-rock. No, you are not.
So, if you buy Woke on a Whaleheart, go into it knowing what you are going to get. You are going to get some highly satisfactory rock music that is nice to listen to while you whittle or do laundry. Don’t expect Dusk at Cubist Castle, because that’s just not what you bought. —Kirsten Schofield
This is Ryan Shaw
Ryan Shaw has managed to revisit a well-loved Golden Age of rhythm & blues (1960-1972) in his debut album. This 26-year-old singer-songwriter from Decatur, Ga., displays a passion for the “oldies” and a keen ability to revive them in style. The album delivers many soulful tunes to please even the most diehard R&B fans, but the true magic shines through the original tunes “Nobody” (the first single), “We Got Love” and the vocally impressive “Over and Done.” These original tracks stand on their own in today’s cliché-drenched, overproduced world of “hits” with lyrical and vocal originality. With a remarkable range, and an Aretha Franklin-esque power, his vocal abilities are high above most male performers today.
Throughout the CD, we get an array of powerhouse tunes to keep the feet moving and heart pumping; however, track nine, “I’ll Always Love You” (think of a 1960s Brian McKnight), brings a much needed release to the non-stop percolation and shows a softer side of the artist that’ll keep you asking for more. —Andrew Sellinger
I Was Here
As one of the River City’s rising stars, the band Cabin continues to shine on their latest release. Once again, Noah Hewett-Ball leads the group through the sort of atmospheric pop that dominated Govern the Good Life. However, this time around, the band seems more assured in its delivery.
The lyrics are intelligent, the vocals are strong and the backdrop is melodic. Particularly striking is Sarah Welder’s violin work. For the full effect, check out “Musical Seats.”
In a weird way, this EP is reminiscent of, believe it or not, early Widespread Panic, Radiohead and My Morning Jacket. While it is a concise effort, the brevity of this record definitely leaves you wanting more. (The disc hits stores May 29, and Cabin plays a hometown gig to celebrate its release Friday at Uncle Pleasant’s.) —Kevin M. Wilson