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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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+ Red Carpet - The Noise Of Red Carpet
+ The Essex Green - Cannibal Sea
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Stephen Yerkey

It would be so easy to compare Stephen Yerkey to Tom Waits. Both are rooted in traditional genres including blues, folk, jazz and country. Both are cracked to the core, deep bubbling wells of weirdness oozing out of well-made song structures. Both are unclassifiable...

But no, too easy. Stephen Yerkey is Stephen Yerkey, his haunting falsetto drifting out of cheesy bossa-nova ballads like Jeff Buckley in a psychotic trance state, his sinister ZZ Top guitar vamp overlaid with surreal visions of violence, his closely constructed lyrical lines studded with alternate pronunciations ("hookacalyptus" trees and "oona"-bombers.) This is about as odd an album as you'll ever love, and if it creeps you out late at night as it plays over and over in your head, don't say I didn't warn you.

Like his last record, 1994's Confidence Man, Metaneonatureboy was produced by Eric Drew Feldman, who is, perhaps, responsible for the clarity and polish on this very eccentrically constructed album. Feldman has, of course, worked with such mainstream artists as PJ Harvey, the Polyphonic Spree and Frank Black, but none of them have ever written a song like "My Baby Loves the Western Violence" or "Cadillacs of That Color," both so freakishly good that they might have come from a parallel universe. In fact, the entire middle section of Metaneonatureboy, everything from "Alice McAllister" to "Link Wray's Girlfriend," is transcendent stuff of the funhouse-mirror variety. The slower, more sentimental cuts have their virtues, but Yerkey's metier is satire, delivered so dead seriously that you can only hope he's kidding.

"Cadillacs of That Color" starts as a spoken-word piece; against the moan of horns and the sound of incoming tide, Yerkey's high, scratchy voice describes a school field trip to San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. He regales us with the glories of nature, flora and fauna in Technicolor detail, then a teacher asks if the class can relate all this to anything else they know. "I have seen Cadillacs of that color..." comes the chorus, rollicking and sardonic, as Yerkey links "Salvia of red, purple, green and blue" to the Reverend Ike's flashy ride. ("And I said, 'Reverend Ike, how can you help people/ Riding in a car that looks like a long dill pickle?' and he fixed me with an intense stare and said,/ 'Little Boy, how can I help people riding a bicycle?'") Subsequent verses compare teenaged hookers and beaten-to-death drifters to "Cadillacs of that color," while slyly sending up sex and cops and middle-class anxieties about parking in bad neighborhoods. The song is very funny, all the more so because it is delivered with absolute deadpan seriousness.

The best song, though, is "My Baby Love the Western Violence," which relentlessly piles up the noir images, one after the other. The girl in this song is one scary lady, who "love the severed loggers, the river rapists and the serrated joggers..." among other lurid things. The lyrics are wicked fun, full of jagged lines and unusual words that rhymed, and it all sits atop a smoky, Sam Spade musical vibe, with blowsy sax and whammy-bent guitar chords adding to the general dissolution.

This is brilliantly individual stuff, so odd and off-kilter that you almost don't notice the skill behind the songs. It's there, though. Anyone can sing crazy stuff... very few can make it as madly coherent and compelling as Stephen Yerkey.

by Jennifer Kelly

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