by: Hobert Taylor
Nano Stern - Mil 500 Vueltas - (TGM Records)
This is a really cool hybrid...folk, jazz, rock, and Latin from Chile's Nano Stern. Stern is a chameleon who wanders through genres seamlessly in order to give his music power and intimacy. Picks: "Mil 500 Vueltas", "Dando Vueltas", the instrumental "Pasa El Tiempo", the orchestral and majestic "Todo Canta", the highly syncopated traditional tunes "Festejo de Color" and "La Serotonina", the Andean style "Corta Las Cuerdas", and the ballad sung as a duet with Joan Baez, "Las Venas".
Blackheart Honeymoon - Mountains Speak - (Self Released)
This Seattle alt-country outfit lopes along pleasantly melodically...all the songs sound quite familiar. This ironically supports their sweetly biting lyrics. Ian Prebo has a haunting and deeply sincere singing voice, a little like being in a bear hug with your little brother who is clutching you uncomfortably, but truly intimately. I like "Wishing and Hoping", the bouncy "Rapid Mutation", the poppy Luddite ode "Particles", and the reprise of the title tune, "Mountain Speak".
Clint Alphin - Postmodern Man - (Self Released)
In the Harry Nilson tradition, songwriter Alphin's gentle self deprecation and patient excoriation of contemporary society bounces right along encased in pop jingles and a voice dripping with treacle and venom. I pick "Take While You Can" (capitalism examined), the true folk song and earnest hymn "The Flood", "Blessed are the Rich", "You Don't Love Me" (my fave), the gorgeous "North Carolina Waltz", and the anti-war "Plowshares".
Oak Street Blues - Back Again - (Self Released)
This is a one man's vision. Chris Hall writes sweet and simple pop tunes a la Jonathon Richman and Alex Chilton. "Beautiful Tonight" and the country ditty "Girls with Boots" are my picks, and "Long Holidays" is the first description in song I've ever heard of the the agony and the ecstasy produced by those three day week-ends that sound so inviting in concept and then just drag on and on ...(you can hear it in his voice).
Neil Young + Promise of the Real - The Monsanto Years - (Warner Reprise)
Neil carries on with gloriously expressive guitar playing, another tight band that bends to his will, and pissed off songs about the decline of American civilization and personal hypocrisy that is understandable but still galling. Neil is too big a star for us to play on KUCI normally, but if he weren't famous, we'd be all over this.