Saturday, April 22, 2006

Of the instant

1. The next time I feel like a musical obsessive, I will recall this interview with Richard Nevins, the founder of Yazoo Records, and visualize his latest acquisition of 10,000 albums. Then I will contemplate acquiring the cool-sounding compilation he is plugging during that NPR spot.

2. I am not really one for impulse purchases on the musical front. (A Jody Watley album--the Jody Watley album, as it turns out--bought at full price a few months after its release in 1987 is the main one I tend to recall.) But when I heard a song called "All My Rivals" by a guy named Chris Brown on a recent podcast of Coverville, I had one of those drop-everything moments. (Host Brian Ibbott even describes himself as "obsessed" with the song, which, BTW, is not a cover, unlike 99% of what he plays on his eternally outstanding show.)

For the record (pardon the pun), I found the album--Now That You're Fed--via iTunes and sampled enough of the other tracks enough to know I would probably like almost all of them. (They are a bit same-y, but I used to say the same of Leonard Cohen and early R.E.M., and when the "same" is this stellar it's not a problem.) I think the hard copy is mainly distributed by, and if you click on that link there you can find MP3s of several representative album tracks, including "All My Rivals" (but not including some other instantly likeable ones, like "Waiting for Caroline"--a gorgeous Beach Boyish gem).

The album, which I've only heard once in its entirety so far (given that I bought it so quickly, I thought I would break another longstanding habit and write about it instantaneously, too), is terrific. It's acoustic power pop that makes beautiful use of Brown's voice: lots of multi-tracked harmonies and instrumentally spare arrangements verging on a capella. Every one of the handfull of reviews I've managed to track down tonight, like this one, includes a comparison to Elliott Smith, but I gotta say, I've never quite been bit by the E.S. bug, and I find this guy's songs way catchier. But I do hear it, along with traces of Peter Case and my perpetual guilty-pleasure faves, The Association. (This is apparently the spot where I'm supposed to drop the name of the band Jellyfish, because band member Chris Manning produced the album, but I know next to nothing of Jellyfish. If you do, I guess that will excite you.)

Chris Brown's major stumbling block to stardom, or at least cult stardom, seems to me to be his name: in my cursory check for info on him, I came across a rapper, an experimental/new music artist, and a BritPopper, among others. He also may or may not be the same Chris Brown who collaborates with Kate Fenner, a duo I've heard good stuff about.(I don't think he is.) And I am told he is also an independent filmmaker, although IMDB lists 27 Chris Browns, and while this guy is one possible candidate, something tells me that's wrong. Confusion reigns!

3. The same episode of Coverville also led me to the King's Singers a capella cover of Neil Young's "After the Gold Rush," which is just incredible. (I also have a soft spot in my heart for Dolly Parton's version, but only in the what-the-fuck sense. This one is more like holy-shit, if you like your mini-reviews laced with obscenity.) This one pretty much speaks for itself, so I'll shut up now and listen to it and Chris Brown some more.

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