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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
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+ Badly Drawn Boy - Born In The U.K.
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+ 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
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+ 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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Looks At The Bird
Thrill Jockey

Sometimes when I'm listening to a CD, what's going on in the background is so imposing that it creeps into the music. Such is the case with a massively hyped snowstorm. When I first started listening to Looks at the Bird, the new disc from Brokeback, the snowstorm that blanketed the East Coast over Presidents' Day weekend blew into the hushed and rhythmic music. But the two fit nicely together. I listened on Sunday, while driving from Philadelphia to New York. We'd cut our long weekend short, and were riding the first wave of the storm to Brooklyn. The near white-out conditions and the white flakes rushing at our windshield complemented the music, which was sometimes slow and deep and sometimes flitted by. The next day, safely home and in the middle of the storm, I took a walk. I could hear Brokeback in the whispering beat of snowflakes hitting my jacket, in the soft squeak of my shoes crunching the powdery snow and in the sliding shuffle of shovels in the distance. Then on the third day, after the snow stopped and the sky lightened a little bit, so did the music. It didn't sound so hushed anymore. I could hear the drums and the fluttering wind instruments.

I always thought Tortoise, the band bass player Douglas McCombs normally spends his time with, made a shape-shifting music — sometimes sounding like jazz, sometimes like rock and sometimes a little electronic. Brokeback — McCombs and bassist Noel Kuppersmith from The Chicago Underground Orchestra, along with the late Mary Hansen from Stereolab on a few tracks — also move between genres and can shift moods along with the listener. Other musicians that contributed to the disc include John McEntire, Chad Taylor, Aki Tsuyuko and Stereolab's other vocalist, Laetitia Sadier. In the world of Tortoise and their label Thrill Jockey, these musicians are constantly shifting in and out of bands: Eleventh Dream Day, Tortoise, Isotope 217, the Sea and Cake, and the Chicago Underground Duo/Trio/Orchestra.

One of the first things that struck me about Looks at the Bird is the silence — or the space between the notes, especially in the opening track. This isn't music about angst or ego, hooks or licks, or lyrics we've heard before. McCombs and Co. are in no rush to lure the listener. "From the Black Current," the opener, consists of only McCombs on his bass 6 and Kuppersmith on a double bass. But the vibrations of the strings are like extra instruments, at first warming up in the orchestra pit and then humming along with the music. McCombs plucks one heavy string at a time, often with a pause in between. That space between creates a quiet tension — similar to the tension one might feel driving 20 mph behind a team of five snowplows on the New Jersey Turnpike.

The third track has the odd title "Name's Winston, Friends Call Me James." It's one of the three on the disc that feature Mary Hansen, and may be one of her last recordings: She was killed in a bicycle accident in London in December. Hansen had a special ability to use her voice not just for transmitting lyrics, but as an instrument. She often sings nonsensical syllables, letting her voice weave in and out of the music rather than telling a story. She does just that on "Name's Winston." The song opens with single low notes played on McCombs's bass 6; then Hansen's voice joins in and counters the low sounds. Before long, Sadier joins in as well. Their mouths don't even move enough to make a consonant sound until well into the song. For the most part it's "ooohs" and "aaaahs." In the end they get busy with some "naaneee naaaneee naaaneees."

Brokeback cover a Tortoise song, "The Suspension Bridge at Iguazu Falls," on the disc. Both versions are very layered, with a lot of percussion. It's actually hard to say which sounds better. Brokeback can create a world of texture down in the low ends of the music. In their version of the song, the drums at the start are tinny, almost like "The March of the Wooden Soldiers, " then the basses come in, one deeply driving the music and the other swirling and supporting. It's one of the most layered-sounding songs on the disc. Rock music is built around the guitar, but it takes a pared-down delivery (and some clever music geeks) to show what strings are really capable of.

The temperatures are rising every day in New York. The snow is turning to slush, then disappearing. As I shed layers, my Brokeback disc seems to keep gaining them.

by Lori Miller Barrett

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