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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
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+ 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
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+ Cex - Actual Fucking
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+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
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+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
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+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
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+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
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+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
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+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
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+ 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
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Chris Brokaw
Incredible Love

Over a couple of decades' worth of career, Chris Brokaw has played with a really astonishing array of first-rate bands and artists, from his slow-drumming days with Codeine, through a dark and brooding partnership with Thalia Zedek in Come, to a stint backing punk-psyche-country kingpin Steve Wynn, to more recent recordings with the New Year and Clint Conley's Consonant. It's surprising he has time to record solo, but in fact, Incredible Love is his fourth full-length, following 2002's Red Cities. And this time, too, as Brokaw steps out in front, the result is low-key and excellent. These songs are unassuming and understated, but so well-made that they stick with you after only a few plays.

The cut that captures your attention first is "Move" a driving, hazy, drum-powered song that is several degrees more aggressive than the rest of the album. It is built, like the rest of the album, on a foundation of acoustic guitar, yet this is the loudest, most rock-oriented acoustic you've ever heard. The lyrics, you realize on repeated listens, are wistful, mournful even, the move of the title being one out of a broken relationship, yet they are buried low in the mix, building tension as they snake in and out of the jangle of notes. A dense array of sounds moves in and out of focus, a spiraling electric guitar, some sort of cool-toned keyboard, the slash of drums — but the song has an indeterminate unity, as if it could not be made of other elements. It's the kind of song you can listen to over and over and still not understand why it's so great... it's simply there, itself and irreducible, as all memorable songs are. The lone cover is also excellent, revisiting Suicide's "I Remember" with acoustic guitars. Brokaw uses the same sort of space-wheeling roller-coaster of distorted sound that Martin Rev employed on the original, and it makes a striking contrast to the much warmer tone of his voice and guitar.

While these two songs pop first, the subtler "X's for Eyes" may well be the disc's best, its lovely melody twining around picked guitar patterns. The song twists and turns around its subject, using body metaphors — bones on a blanket, blood — to evoke the end of a relationship. Brokaw nails the ending, terminating the song with its most effective image in the lines "While we got awoken like bugs in the winter/ Too dumb to rise/ With no sense of proportion/ Or thought of dimension/ And both started walking/ With X's for eyes." "Whose Blood," too, puts the stinger in the end, closing its abstract bluegrassy jam with a short meditation on war and loss.

Brokaw's lyrics are oblique, raising ideas about war, peace, love and loss without filling in too many of the blanks. Still, the album feels like the musings of someone who's not quite at home with the world, either personally or politically, and whose discomfort translates into melancholy art. That seeps through even in the lone instrumental piece, as "Gringa" turns rising chord progressions into sad meditation.

The liner notes are particularly beautiful, accompanying each song's lyrics with an uncredited photo — a small child in a boat, a woman with her head turned away, a hand on a pool cue. Sharp and evocative like the songs themselves, these images imply stories that have not been explicitly told and emotions that have been kept in check. What's on the surface is just the beginning here, and what's underneath is well worth exploring.

by Jennifer Kelly

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