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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
+ Growing - Color Wheel
+ Red Carpet - The Noise Of Red Carpet
+ The Essex Green - Cannibal Sea
+ Espers - II
+ Wilderness - Vessel States

44.1 kHz Archive

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The Naked Dutch Painter And Other Songs

On his second solo album (on hiatus from his band, the Negro Problem), Stew casts a cynical eye on the L.A. environs he's moved through and a loving eye toward those who've traveled with him. His songs are mostly portraits of alienation, loneliness and desperation wrapped in parlor piano, soul and pop accompaniment. The Naked Dutch Painter and Other Songs showcases Stew as he both provokes and sweetens frowns, luring you closer with each listen.

This is cabaret — but don't mistake it for lighthearted or cheesy schlock. Stew is the welcomed party guest who scoffs at stereotypes from a corner chair. Most of his songs are self-deprecating, cutting and/or tender, with no illusion of well-being. The finest are catchy "folk songs" — they have memorable melodies and paint realistic character portraits.

Stew is at his best when delivering insults: "Giselle has a flower that blooms and ooh such a smell/ Seductively fragrant, imported directly from hell." Heidi Rodewald's angelfire vocals underline and cheekily undermine selected verses when appropriate.

On "I'm Not on a Drug," Stew defends (and then possibly dejects) the sober mope at a party of inebriates. Adam Marsland's piano (a la John Cale on Fragments of a Rainy Season) and Jim Sitterly's theatric violin set the backdrop to Stew's telling lyrics: "And in the toilet there's a boy letting someone thread his needle/ With hair just like a Beatle/ And I'm not one to meddle/ This really is a lovely party/ The guests are erudite and arty/ But I'm not on a drug."

"North Bronx French Marie" is perhaps the sweetest "longing-love" song I've heard in some time, capturing the feeling through realistic details and bluesy Gregg Allman-style piano. "Look what the New York summer's done/ You're in a punk rock T-shirt melting in the sun/ But it's not the heat but your sweet humility/ That shakes my tree, sticks to me, French Marie."

Unfortunately, not every song is a knockout, but the gems are quite appealing. Stew is a romantic, a soulful troubadour, an eyewitness and survivor of contemporary affairs. It's simply refreshing to hear such honest songwriting.

by Todd Shalom

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