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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

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Sea Note

In a millennial era in which every artist's every ass-scratch is discussed ad nauseam on some message board somewhere, creating a modern-day mythology ain't so easy. Liam Hayes, the large-haired fellow hiding behind the moniker Plush, has taken a fairly decent crack at mythology, via the means of mystery. For about his first five years at this Plush game, Hayes had a single single — the seven-inch "Found a Little Baby"/"Three-Quarters Blind Eyes" — to his name. Two tracks of orchestrated pop-music steeped in cockeyed revisionism, its one-off status endeared it to indie-geeks the world over. With only two songs to work with, Hayes' fans made him a romanticized figure, spinning yarns about the album he was hard at work on, the as-good-as-gospel gossip being that Plush was putting together a pop-record so opulent it'd make Eric Matthews seem stripped-down. When he suddenly broke the silence in 1998, though, it was with a record, More You Becomes You, in which a lonesome Liam sat solo at the piano, Joe-Jacksoning his way through a suite of songs with no other instrumental accompaniment. The radically stripped-down set recast Hayes, who once seemed defined by his moniker, as a faltering troubadour, though the speculative hearsay was that the album had been made off-the-cuff, as a sort of discographical detour away from the car-crash that version one of the definitive Plush album had b'come. And, Julie Christie, the rumors were true. Frustrated at his faltering first attempt at such a disc, he had cut More You Becomes You to buy him some time; and in 1999 he returned once more towards making that big orchestral pop record, that definitive Plush album, Fed. Hayes spent the next three years making various versions thereof, going from studio to studio, adding instruments upon instruments, running up a bill that'd make Shaun Ryder blush, sparing no expense in his pursuit of artistic happiness. By the time he'd finished, the album had cost so much that the licensing fees grew to levels an indie-label'd call "outrageous." Domino and Drag City blanched at dishing up such cash, and the Japanese label, After Hours, that did decide to pay the piper (releasing the record in late 2002) did so only under the condition that it'd never be released outside of Japan. Which seemed to fit perfectly with Hayes' mystery. The perfectionist had finally realized his over-the-top retro-pop symphony, and yet, now, no one'd ever get to hear it. The only real surprise, then, has come with this release of Underfed. Described as the "demos" for Fed, this disc is, really, just one of the many "early versions" Hayes made of the album, less a collection of basic test recordings than a largely-realized rendition that didn't come close to the songsmith's grand plans and grander ambitions. To help Hayes, ever the perfectionist, release such to the public, the record works with a certain artifice, its artwork faking to be a CDR, replete with Post-It note proclaiming "Glitch at end," the recordings featuring not just a glitch, but a fragment of a song stuck between two others, and a conversation between Hayes and Bob Weston (about an awry vocal, no less) preceding another. By deliberately leaving in things so obviously imperfect, Hayes is keeping us forever aware that this is the sketch, not the finished portrait. Largely sticking to guitar/bass/drums, with various analog organs — most notably the Chamberlain — adding on hints of the opulence that'd come down the line later, Underfed is sort of like Hayes's equivalent of those Smile bootlegs that, until Brian Wilson ruined it for everyone last year, only hinted at the final, unrealized vision that never came to be. Given more people are likely to hear Underfed than've heard Fed, here we get a Plush album that hints at another Plush album (mythology, ho!); one whose recordings take attention away from the arrangements, whilst hinting at even greater arrangements. When "Having It All" has Hayes singing, in that cracked voice, "Ice cream and honey/ Stained-glass and money/ Preached and bleached/ You reached me for my own good," before the Chamberlain's strings come in, it hints at the grandness innate in Hayes's "classic songwriter" ways; yet, without the real string section, it also places attention back on the songsmith's songs. If these recordings are deemed the emaciated beginnings of their satiated conclusions, it hardly harms the songs themselves, Hayes's particular brand of pop chops having been honed significantly for this set, moving beyond mere Beach Boys/Beatles pastiche, and into some realm of minor-league genius.

by Anthony Carew

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