eMusic Round-up

I’ve been using eMusic as something of a preview and back-up service. I’ll download an album on eMusic, and if I like enough, I’ll buy a CD and use my download from eMusic as a back-up in the unlikely chance something goes awry with the CD.

Some stuff I don’t feel too attached to get a CD, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like it. (I may not love it …)

Here are some recent acquisitions from eMusic.

Black Lipstick, Sincerely, Black Lipstick

Black Lipstick delivers the same cool swagger that permeated its debut album, Converted Thieves, but on its second album, Sincerely, a bit of the old Kiss Offs spunk shines through. (Phillip Niemeyer and Travis Higdon were members of the short-lived Austin band the Kiss Offs.) The sound is punchier, the writing more mature, but the performances are still deadpan as ever. Converted Thieves sometimes felt a bit heavy, but no such levity weighs on Sincerely. There’s no sophomore slump here.

Chris Butler, The Devil Glitch

I thought Hip-O Select was working on reissuing the complete recordings of the Waitresses, but I guess that’s vaporware.

Waitresses mastermind Chris Butler, however, has continued writing and recording. In fact, Butler recorded the longest pop song in the world, as certified by the Guiness Book of World Records. While writing "The Devil Glitch", Butler kept adding lines to his impossibly long chorus.

He sent out a demo of the song to various friends, who then wrote their own music over the song. Butler collected those recordings to fashion a song that continuously evolves and remains engaging for all 69 minutes.

Yes, it can get a bit minimalistic hearing the same melody over, but Butler throws out precious one-liners that keep a listener reeled in. "Sometimes you can fix something by just getting a Mac/DOS is such a lousy system"

I’ve only managed to get through the entire song once, but it’s a tremendous feat to witness regardless.

The Klezmatics, Wonder Wheel: Lyrics of Woodie Guthrie

Klezmatics’ albums can be pretty exhausting, bouncing from poignancy to exuberance with sprawling improvisation and spirited performances. Wonder Wheel, by contrast, is the most conventional album the Klezmatics have recorded. Working with the lyrics of Woodie Guthrie, the band crafted music tied closely to the words. They’ve reigned in the extended improvisations and their more "composerly" tendencies.

That doesn’t mean the band can’t be eclectic. "Mermaid Avenue" goes for a calypso sound, "Goin’ Away to Sea" is classic Klezmatics klezmer, while "Gonna Get Through This World" is straight-forward folk.

The Klezmatics do a great job making music that highlights Guthrie’s words, even if it means holding themselves back. What results is a focused album that still shows off the band’s virtuosity.

Clannad, Live in Concert

The last time Clannad released an album titled Live in Concert, it was a folk band framing traditional Irish music in a contemporary context. The group’s second album to sport the same title comes after 30 years on the road, 20 of them producing its own music.

Oddly enough, half of the newer Live in Concert still covers that earliest period. The contemporary works are represented by Clannad’s bigger hits — "In a Lifetime", featuring Brian Kennedy in place of U2’s Bono, "Theme to Harry’s Game" and "Newgrange".

But even the traditional material has been given the full band treatment of the band’s pop era. "Dulaman" and "Nil Sen La" turn into a fusion jams far removed from their original interpretations. Still, three decades together have made Clannad into a tight performing machine, and Live in Concert reveals a more robust group than its ethereal recordings would indicate.