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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
+ Svalastog - Woodwork
+ Tim Hecker - Harmony In Ultraviolet
+ Rosy Parlane - Jessamine
+ Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record
+ Múm - Peel Session
+ Deloris - Ten Lives
+ Minimum Chips - Lady Grey
+ Badly Drawn Boy - Born In The U.K.
+ The Hold Steady - Boys And Girls Together
+ The Blood Brothers - Young Machetes
+ The Places - Songs For Creeps
+ Camille - Le Fil
+ Wolf Eyes - Human Animal
+ Christina Carter - Electrice
+ The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
+ Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye
+ Various Artists - Musics In The Margin
+ Rafael Toral - Space
+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
+ Excepter - Alternation
+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
+ Robin Guthrie - Continental
+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
+ Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
+ Klee - Honeysuckle
+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
+ Awesome Color - Awesome Color
+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
+ Asobi Seksu - Citrus
+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
+ Alejandro Escovedo - The Boxing Mirror
+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
+ Metal Hearts - Socialize
+ American Princes - Less And Less
+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
+ Supersilent - 7
+ Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
+ Dudley Perkins - Expressions
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44.1 kHz Archive

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Lost Highway

Alt-country and Americana are two genre names now bandied about recklessly to describe a subcategory of "roots" music. Like other equally loaded genre titles — emo, for example — they are rarely employed by artists to describe their own music. Rather, journalists use them to sum up an entire record in a word or two.

The now-disbanded Whiskeytown were alt-country, but to an equal extent, a pop band. This is the Catch-22 of narrow genre labelings. There's no doubting that Ryan Adams, singer and chief songwriter of the Whiskeytown material and now a solo artist, likes to incorporate equal amounts of bitter country, crunchy rock texture and smooth pop creaminess in his musical concoctions. Where bands like Uncle Tupelo and Wilco seem to be one (aching country) or the other (pop-rock), Adams combines all elements in his compositions. He's not afraid to throw a couple of amazing pop hooks, some country drawl and a bit of old-time rock-'n'-roll swagger into the same song. This works best on the deceptively simple "Crazy About You," an optimistic lovestruck ode to a former partner that has a killer catchy chorus: "And I want to be happy/ And I only want you/ If you think that I'm crazy/ I'm just crazy 'bout you." On the luscious "Don't Be Sad," Whiskeytown do their best Pernice Brothers impersonation, with warm strings and ringing guitars backing one of Adams' most "straight" vocal performances — even incorporating a Joe Pernice-styled whispering lyric line as the song climaxes.

Like the Red House Painters' Old Ramon, Pneumonia is an album that was caught up in label kafuffle and, as a result, saw its release delayed for literally years. This is unfortunate for any group, but all the worse because for now, at least, Pneumonia is a posthumous Whiskeytown release coming after a solo album from the prolific Adams. Where Adams' solo work is a little more stripped-back, the "buzz" building around them at the time they went into the studio to record Pneumonia afforded Whiskeytown extra time and money from which they clearly benefited. The fine craft of this record is especially evident on "Sit and Listen to the Rain" — cue the track and wait for the fine falsetto that rises in the climax. In this moment the record too is lifted a notch above alt-country's sometimes repetitive and self-reflexive nature to a higher plane — where it can exist outside of genre expectations.

by Ben Gook

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