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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Those of you who know me probably know I write whole album reviews over at Austin Sound.  Well, two albums I took home to review in the past couple weeks have stood out as particularly impressive (if a little underwhelming at times, in the case of Loose Leaves).  Letís discuss:


Listenlisten - Hymns From Rhodesia

I love you
Austin, but recently some of the most exciting new "Austin music" has been outsourced to Houston, namely to Listenlistenís new album Hymns From Rhodesia.  The interplay of different textures on the album is on par with seasoned professionals, and the constant sway between studio-sheen and backroom live recordings is surprisingly smooth.  The result is an album that immediately feels human and relatable, but is dressed up in all the right ways.

Let me just say this:  Thereís banjo. A lot of Banjo.  And its all good.  Of course, thatís one piece of the instrumentation masterpiece.  Most songs begin with simple acoustic guitar, banjo or piano, and slowly draw in a host of both traditional and more novelty (you know, like violins and stuff) instruments.  And leading this brigade are the haunting layered vocals, calling indecently from somewhere offstage (think Man Man done right).  The general effect is a drawn out, more acoustic version of something like Austinís the Lovely Sparrows.  Which is to say the album is entirely wonderful in every way, and that you should listen to it if you know whatís best for your soul.

:Listenlisten - Safe Home, Safe Home In Port!:

Loose Leaves - Loose Leaves

Basically, I love alt-country music.  Lately its been pretty Uncle Tupelo heavy at my house.  But I DESPISE radio-pop country music.  It gives me a headache.  It makes me abuse ibuprofen.  It makes me hate the sound of guitars. And I want to die.

The two styles tend to get grouped together, but are more or less nothing alike.  But the self titled from Loose Leaves somehow finds a way to straddle my both musical true love and arch-nemesis.  Hereís how:

Starting with the good, some songs the album caters to everything an alt-country enthusiast (me) wants to see in an album.  Songs like Long Shot tend a little more towards rock music, with their electric guitar solos and what-have-you, but with a subtle, true to the genre, motif.  Though the lyrics arenít astounding (theyíre about girls, again, true to the genre), the better half of the album follows the same formula, quite effectively.

Unfortunately, its songs that seem ripe for the radioís pickiní that drag down the good feeling.  Overblown guitar buildups (on Perfect Disguise, for example) seem to catapult the album away from its roots, or at least what I hope are its roots.  It sounds contrived and boring - you know the sound Iím talking about.

But then suddenly, itís back to the loveable strains of alt-rock, masterfully rocking out and cooling it down with organs, you know, all the things I absolutely love.  In the end, this album both fuels my insatiable desire for new alt-country music, and stirs up some of those negative emotions I was talking about.  If Loose Leaves can capitalize on the good section, well, Iím sure Iíll be back ranting on and on about the next big Austin alt-country album.

:Loose Leaves - Long Shot:

John Michael Cassetta keeps his own blog, Big Diction, and writes for the local website Austin Sound.  Comments, complaints, and solicitations may be directed here.

- John Michael Cassetta -

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