Uh Huh Her Island
Within the liner notes of Polly Jean Harveys seventh album,
there are no lyrics, but photographs of the singer taken by
her over the years with Brian Eno-esque footnotes dictating
the process of making Uh Huh Her (Too normal? Too PJH?
Turned up loud, but playing gently.). It documents a conscious
effort to get away from herself, to oppose her instincts and make
an album unlike her previous efforts.
On 2000s Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea,
she absorbed the studio as much as she absorbed the moods of New York
City; on Uh Huh Her, she strips the songs down on mostly 4-track
and 8-track recordings, giving it the feel of a demo. The result is
a bare and intoxicating aberration that exposes Harvey artistically,
if not personally. Deviating from the production glitz of Stories,
Uh Huh Her is more skittish, layering Harveys lush whispers
with her monotonous incantations and hysterical shrieks. This, coupled
with the stranglehold of murky guitars and noticeable lack of percussion,
creates a hollowed out yet rich sound.
Lyrically, Harvey is wry and austere, mixing sexy metaphors (The
Letter) with explicit overtures (The Life and Death of
Mr. Badmouth). The words perfectly match the restlessness of
the music yet never really expose the artist. Turning each note inside
out, Harvey emotes the feelings behind the words not the stories behind
With Harveys recently announced plans to visit the Uptown next
month, it will be intriguing to see how she matches the minimal production
of this album with the cavernous acoustics of the venue. To achieve
maximum results, she may have to follow her own advice and turn up
the volume and play gently. It works beautifully here. Gillian
Titus (Posted 9/24/04)
The Outernational Sound Eighteenth
Street Lounge Music
Although there are probably fewer and fewer vinyl junkies who havent
discovered the treasures of lost musical artifacts online, Thievery
Corporations Rob Garza and Eric Hilton continue to save everyone
the trouble by making rather eclectic and esoteric collections like
The Outernational Sound. A thematic follow up to 2001s
acid jazz compilation, Sounds from the Verve Hi-Fi.
The Outernational Sound is a trippy and occasionally goofy
soundtrack for a long road trip or an even longer day behind a desk.
Like true mix-tape freaks, Garza and Hilton have Googled a magical
collection of tracks that even the most rabid record collector would
be hard pressed to recognize. Whether its the swinging elevator
pizzazz of David Snells International Flight or
the extra-spicy beat of the Karminsky Experiences Shall
We Dance, this is globetrotting music for the most discerning
Like the Verve compilation, The Outernational Sound never strays
far from the lounge, featuring the jazz funk of Thievery Corporations
own Lagos Communique and the hallucinogenic haze of Thunderballs
Vai Vai. There are a few minor sidesteps into silliness,
like Alan Moorhouses Expo in Tokyo, but by then
youve been softened by the CDs mellow appeal.
A hypnotic compendium for any time of day, the Outernational
sounds good when trying to find your destination or when trying to
get lost. Gillian Titus (Posted 9/24/04)
The Royal Sessions Yellow
Lets see...Kansas City has its jazz moniker, Chicago, electric
blues, then theres New York punk and dont forget the San
Francisco psychedelia sound. Anything missing?
Heres a hint: Take a Hammond B-3 organ, a wah-wah guitar, a
trumpet and a sax and, of course, the requisite drums and bass
all pouring forth from The Royal Sessions.
Still dont know? Say fool...its Memphis soul were
With the release of The Royal Sessions, The Bo-Keys shook the
musical memory tree earlier this year with a sound seasoned and simmered,
updated and relevant. And what a collection of players, led most aptly
by Charles Skip Pitts on guitar, famous forever for his
creative stamp on Isaac Hayes Oscar-winning Theme From
Shaft, and touch-the-spirit organ player Ronnie Williams.
Every cut works, makin the headphones stay on. Williams on the
B-3 keeps the sound layered, doing everything from left hand runs
across the keys, to dewdrop plops and lingering note massages. The
best cut among all the best cuts is Spanish
Delight. The Hammond starts out front, pushing a high-end sound
against Jim Spakes low baritone sax as Pitts picks in the background
on rhythm. Then the transition begins as Pitts takes the lead, his
licks cutting sharp, and Williams Hammond fades. Its a
little rock n soul. Then again the Hammond moves to the
front and that B-3 Am-I-in-church? sound carries you out.
Pitts gets bluesy on Back at the Chicken Shack as Williams
right hand begins to move on the Hammond. Marc Franklin adds a confident
trumpet on the opening cut Coming Home Baby, and throughout
Willie Hall on drums and Scott Bomar on bass lend righteous weight.
Without going totally retro in CD purchases, take in The Bo-Keys for
a Memphis soul run. Bruce Rodgers (Posted 9/23/04)
A Ghost Is Born Nonesuch
On Wilcos latest, A Ghost Is Born, the band proves that
oblivion and harmony arent mutually exclusive. Produced by the
band with Sonic Youths Jim ORourke, Ghost is caught somewhere
between the aural experimentation on 2002s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
and the pulsating simplicity of 1995s A.M. Melodies crash
and burn in the middle of such blistering tracks as At Least
Thats What You Said, and Spiders (Kidsmoke).
But rather than leave chunks of scrap metal, the band bends and mends
each tune, chugging along almost perfunctorily, allowing itself to
break down, veer off into the unknown and regroup, roaring to the
An incongruous juxtaposition of wailing organs and cracking guitars,
Ghost is delicately balanced on the vocal chords of Jeff Tweedy,
who wrings tender pathos out of every note, most deftly on such lilting
numbers as Handshake Drugs and Company in My Back.
Lyrically aloof, Tweedy is evocative, but never direct. His
goal in life was to be an echo/riding alone, town after town, toll
after toll/a fixed bayonet through the great southwest/to forget her,
he sings on Hummingbird. More of an observer who empathizes
with the listener, Tweedy never exposes himself for all to hear. Inciting
metaphors rather than personal experiences to paint the moods of his
songs, his words are furtively crafted.
A teetering balance of brutal instrumentation and sly lyricism, Ghost
reveals that Wilco is at its best when the songs are seemingly headed
for the very worst. Gillian Titus (Posted 9/10/04)