Thomas Anderson/Craig Finn
Thomas Anderson: The Moon in Transit (Four-Track Demos, 1996-2009) (Out There)
By electing to expend his Dutch East India advance on a fancy tape recorder instead of the Velvet Underground reunion, this Austin singer-songwriter acquired the means to preserve his songs in analog form, and here's the fruit. There were two good albums and then three marginal ones over two decades, so who'd expect a grab bag to be his best? Yet it is. With all four tracks laid down DIY, it's even squarer rhythmically than his norm, and his calm drawl verges on the spectral. But it also verges on the hypnotic, and the guy can write stories and work up tunes. After a brief fanfare, there's an opener about the Donner Party so gruesome and precise I sometimes skip to the merely spooky "Heckling Houdini." Also featured are a 33-year-old groupie-turned-granny, a cross-dressing uncle, Ubangi-stomping Warren Smith, a painfully slow lunch with Nefertiti a few years or millennia too late, driving till you're dizzy in a dumbshit town, and the one about lost love and "Antihistamines": "Chlorpheniramine, Diphenhydramine,/Doxylamine, Phenindamine,/ Tripolidine and Pheniramine,/I can't cure my pain with antihistamines." A MINUS
Craig Finn: Clear Heart Full Eyes (Vagrant)
On a wittingly laid-back solo debut where the declamatory Hold Steady frontman knows he can't bring off the country vocals his best songs deserve, he nails three flat-out anyway: "Terrified Eyes" (couple destroyed by their hospital bills), "When No One's Watching" (snazzy scuzzball seeks needy women), and "Balcony" (she does with her new man what she did with her old man back when he was new). The rest tend more, how to say it, evocative. But at least they evoke specifics‑-Middle American dramatis personae as marginal as Wussy's. B PLUS
He also gave shout-outs to EW commenters in general, Hairy Irene in particular, and early Smiths albums
Haha, that digression on Irene is pretty long too. I think Xgau was right about early Smiths the first time (that James Taylor comparison!), but I would love to read his re-evaluation.
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Just finished Eric Weisbards Use yr Ilusion and.now I'm cranking The Spaghetti Incident which sounds the best it ever has
You should play Use Your Illusion! Both volumes are too long, but Vol. 2 in particular has lots of great stuff on it (great songs that no one ever talks about: "Breakdown", "Locomotive").
PS Moe Willems was great despite his professed distaste for all contemporary pop culture. The host's kids started the interview. I didn't stay for the taxi driver who was trying to break whatever Guinness record he was trying to break.
Meadowlands is as great as everyone says!
Paul, re Betty Wright best of, there is a 2LP on 1 CD with Danger High Voltage and This Time for Real. She was on Jools Holland's Hootenany on the BBC last New Year's Eve and sounded great, sang "Shoorah! Shoorah!". Cyndi Lauper was on it too and was absolutely fantastic, might be on You Tube.
I heard "Andrew in Drag" by the Magnetic Fields again the other night, I think it's going to be my song of the year.
A couple of countries aren't represented - no Libyan music, if I remember correctly.
The version of "N'sel Fik" is different to the one on You Are Mine - more synthy (and not as good) but that song is widely available. If you don't know it, there are very few things in the world as amazing as "N'sel Fik", go find it.
about the blogger
Starting in 1967, Robert Christgau has covered popular music for The Village Voice, Esquire, Blender, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. He teaches in New York University's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, maintains a comprehensive website at robertchristgau.com, and has published five books based on his journalism. He has written for MSN Music since 2006.