The 10 Best Fall Albums

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Wes’ old dog Slippers running through the fallen leaves.
-R.I.P. Slippers- (1989-2001)

 

Editor’s Note: This post originally published in 2012.

Yes, this is the same exact list we posted last year, but we were happy enough with it that we would like to remind everyone of our greatness.  Don’t worry though, look for a completely fresh fall-themed list this afternoon, but for now LxL would like to share what albums put us in that apple cider, leaves off trees, pumpkin picking/carving/eating, and brisk fresh air type of mood.

Continue reading “The 10 Best Fall Albums”

The 10 Best Fall Albums

Jim James Review: Regions of Light and Sound of God

Jim James

Regions of Light and Sound of God

Jim James Regions of Light and Sound of God album cover art

Louisville native Jim James has made a name for himself by heading one of the best bands going today in chameleon Southern rockers My Morning Jacket, but that isn’t so say that’s all James has done. James has made himself known throughout the musical landscape, from singing and playing on records for Bright Eyes, Dr. Dog, Laura Veirs, and Preservation Jazz Hall Band, shacking up in supergroups with Conor Oberst and M. Ward for Monsters of Folk and Jay Farrar and others for a Woodie Guthrie project known as New Multitudes, and notoriously showing up as a guest seemingly everywhere, playing with a diverse range of acts from Erykah Badu to the late great Levon Helm. Not only has James made an imprint in music, but he has also made notable appearances in Elizabethtown and I’m Not There. So it’s a bit surprising that it has taken him this long to release a proper full-length solo album, but the wait is over with Regions of Light and Sound of God. The results are mostly positive, with James doing a very different type of record than he is known for with My Morning Jacket; a sweet, restrained, and spiritual 40 minutes of music that doesn’t hit you over the head, but gently ships you off to outer space.

The story behind Regions of Light and Sound of God has already become a bit of folklore, with the album being inspired by a period of time following a freak stage accident James suffered. James ended up in the hospital and was handed a copy of Lynd Ward’s 1929 wordless novel-in-woodcuts, God’s Man. God’s Man is about a young man who seeks redemption while struggling with personal demons, and then figures things out to only have death sneak up on him. Through the book and this time, James reconciled these weighty themes of love, mercy, suffering, art, and death in his life and has now used Regions of Light and Sound of God as a sort of pronounced meditation on these subjects. Often when artists tackle such themes they get a little ambiguous and messy, but for the most part, James shows a surprising amount o restraint to make a quiet and searching album that is still signature quirky James.

In terms of music, James plays every instrument on the record beside some of the orchestral arrangements, and covers a wide array of music genres but stays within a unified record sound. “A.E.I.O.U. (State of the Art)” builds around a serene jazz piano line and the stillness of James’ voice before slowly picking up steam to form one of Regions’ best tracks. The spacey shuffle of “Know Till Now” sounds like a disco taking place only in James’ mind or on a rocketship to the moon, but still sounds romantic even if it’s a bit dazed out. “Dear One” follows a pattern of My Morning Jacket tracks “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Part 1” and “Day Is Coming”: elementary, hypnotic pop songs that build off one mid-tempo yet entrancing melody. Second single “A New Life” is as good as Regions gets, with James doing his best hiccupy Buddy Holly impression singing a sweet and innocent love song about starting anew. It’s a not-so-distant cousin to classic love song Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me”, and sounds instantly just as classic.

Not only are all the lyrics spiritual in nature, but the music itself lays steeped in sounds from the otherside. One of James’ biggest musical heroes is my favorite Beatle, George Harrison (James even has a Harrison tribute EP called Tribute To), who was also famous for spiritually searching music, pulling influence from Ravi Shankar and Hindustani classical music, gospel music, and folk spirituals. James does much the same here, pulling New Age sounds for “Of The Mother Again”, Middle-Eastern sounds on “All Is Forgiven”, soul and gospel on “Actress”, and airy meditative folk on “God’s Love To Deliver”.  While across the board spiritually, the album doesn’t feel jumbled or messy but rather wholly cathartic.

Probably my biggest issue with Regions of Light and Sound of God is not the concept or overall sound of the record, but rather the songs themselves. Every My Morning Jacket record usually delivers at least 3-4 gripping and instantly epic songs that I will play for years, and outside “A New Life” and maybe “A.E.I.O.U. (State of the Art)”, the songs are pleasant and moving but not stuff I feel like continually retreating back to. James is usually not one for restraint, and he uses it here which I think helped with dealing with huge themes, but I think it also removed some of his oddball personality which is one of the most endearing features to James’ music.

Regions of Light and Sound of God is definitely worth a listen, but isn’t guaranteed to warrant repeated listens the way much of James’ other work does.

7.5/11

Can’t Miss: “A.E.I.O.U. (State of the Art)”, “A New Life”, “Know Till Now”

Can’t Hit: “Exploding”, “Actress”

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Jim James Review: Regions of Light and Sound of God

Top Ten Neil Young Albums

The Top Ten Best Neil Young Albums

This week, our Top Ten Thursday is an ode to LxL’s favorite Canadian, and no it’s not Alan Thicke. In honor of Neil Young’s latest release, the epic Psychedelic Pill, we give you our ten favorite Neil Young records. Neil was no doubt one of the three or four most important artists of the 70’s, but has still released his share of good-to-great albums in the past three plus decades as well. Young’s 40+ studio albums plus even more live albums comes second in productivity only to Bobby Dylan. We also made the decision to just include solo Neil Young records to clean things up a bit, but it goes without saying that Neil has released some classics with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Buffalo Springfield. So without further ado: the best of Mister Young.
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Top Ten Neil Young Albums

The Avett Brothers Show Review

The Avett Brothers with Justin Townes Earle

September 28th, 2012

Charter One Pavilion

Chicago, IL

The Avett Brothers and Justin Townes Earle live show review

A handful of friends including fellow LxLer Todd came into town for the weekend, and what better way to start the weekend than catching two quality folk acts under the city lights on Lake Michigan. It was my first trip to Charter One Pavilion, the make-shift venue thrown up in the summer on Northerly Island, the attached peninsula on the lake front where Adler Planetarium lies, and it was a great one. This was quite a venue for a folk legacy like Justin Townes Earle and a folk band in Avett Brothers that has only grown more confident and comfortable on stage in the recent years.
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The Avett Brothers Show Review

Top Ten Thursday: Albums to the Tune of Autumn

Wes’ old dog Slippers running through the fallen leaves.
-R.I.P. Slippers- (1989-2001)

Yes, this is the same exact list we posted last year, but we were happy enough with it that we would like to remind everyone of our greatness.  Don’t worry though, look for a completely fresh fall-themed list this afternoon, but for now LxL would like to share what albums put us in that apple cider, leaves off trees, pumpkin picking/carving/eating, and brisk fresh air type of mood.
Continue reading “Top Ten Thursday: Albums to the Tune of Autumn”

Top Ten Thursday: Albums to the Tune of Autumn

The Avett Brothers Review: The Carpenter

The Avett Brothers

The Carpenter

new album from the Avett Brothers, The Carpenter

Few bands these days truly earn their stripes. When it comes to breaking it big commercially, it’s usually one hit single or a spot in a cutesy ad that gets a band to blow up. Think fun., Carly Rae Jepsen, Gotye, and Alex Clare. Not to say that it’s wrong to break big with one hit or that those songs are inherently bad – since actually most are actually good – but its way more rewarding and refreshing to see a band earn it the hard way. I already spoke of My Morning Jacket being a band that fits that bill, but another industrious, hard-working band that fits the mold is Carolina folk trio, the Avett Brothers. Over the last ten years, the Brothers have been evolving their irreverent yet reflective brand of alt-country on the stage and on record, finally breaking out with the help of a high profile producer, Rick Rubin, for their brilliant fifth album I and Love and You. On their latest, The Carpenter, the Avett Brothers again get aid from Rubin and stick in the pocket of their signature sound, sounding as confident as ever while crafting some of the best folk pop around.
Continue reading “The Avett Brothers Review: The Carpenter”

The Avett Brothers Review: The Carpenter

Dawes Q&A

We caught up with Taylor Goldsmith, front man of the Americana L.A. band Dawes, post-Bonnaroo to discuss playing with legends like Robbie Robertson and Jackson Browne, songwriting, Occupy Wall Street, and going head-to-head with Ludacris.

Q&A with L.A. roots rock band Dawes

LxL: Bonnaroo was my first time seeing you, and I was able to catch part of both your sets. I thought you guys sounded great, but my real question about the show is what was it like going head-to-head with Ludacris?

Taylor Goldsmith: (laughs) That was actually sort of a relief. Not that he is not incredible, but we were more worried about playing at the same time as a similar artist who we might share fans with. At Hangout Fest, we played at the same time as M. Ward. We have played a bunch of shows together and we are all buddies at this point. So we thought “Ahh that is inconvenient” where as someone like Ludacris, with all the people he is playing to, which I am certain was a much larger crowd than ours, I doubt they would want to see Dawes anyway even if Luda wasn’t playing.
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Dawes Q&A