OUTSIDE THE HEARD - MAY 2011

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Manchester Orchestra
Simple Math
Columbia

 
Manchester Orchestra's third record, Simple Math, is a concept record. It's a story about a 23-year old who questions everything from marriage to love to religion to sex. It's chock full of monster riffs, vigorous string arrangements, deep hooks and has miles of melodies that encase a compelling coming-of-age story told in the first person, intimately written and sung by frontman Andy Hull. "This record is two dueling conversations between me and my wife, and me and my God," says Hull. "Sometimes even for myself, it's difficult to decipher which one I'm actually talking to. Everything I've written in the past has been about those things. This album is the most realized form of my questioning."
 
Keren Ann
101
Blue Note

 
Keren Ann was born in Caesaria, Israel to a Javanese-Dutch mother and Russian-Israeli father and raised in Paris. She began captivating U.S. critics and audiences in 2004 with the stateside release of Not Going Anywhere, and proved that she was here to stay with 2005's Nolita and 2007's Keren Ann. And now, almost four years after her last album, Keren Ann is back with101. Each song is a window into a world, like the windows of the apartment building opposite James Stewart's inRear Window.Each picture, lit by a different light, is a painting come to life, a painting in sound and words, telling a story. There is also a new energy, a broader range, and a sense of new ground broken. The voice reaches out more, but Keren Ann retains her enigmatic quality -- the vignettes still mystify as much as they illuminate. Ultimately101embodies what Keren Ann`s music is all about: the songs, the voice, the sound.
Emilie Simon
The Big Machine
Le Plan
 
Emilie Simon's plush, artful soundscapes had already yielded her significant praise and awards in her French homeland and beyond. Singing in both French and English, Emilie allows her music to flow naturally, rewarding her with devoted fans worldwide. Simon now lives in New York, and it's the heart of the Big Apple that the seeds of The Big Machine – her impressive new album -- were planted and grown. Once The Big Machine had been set in motion distant ancestors of the New York music pantheon were being integrated into her plans, such as Laurie Anderson's Big Science, which was celebrated for being both avant-garde and pop. You'll find her venturing into unknown territories here, such as on the seductive track "The Cycle" with its hints of pop radio from the 70s/80s, or - at the other end of the spectrum - the sultry cabaret of "Rocket To The Moon". Clever and charming, The Big Machine is quite a find.
 
William Fitzsimmons
Gold in the Shadow
Nettwerk

 
For many years, armed with a Master's degree in counseling from Geneva College, William Fitzsimmons worked as a mental health therapist, and only began recording his songs during graduate school breaks. While previous releases have been a detailed and agonizing retelling of events, Gold In The Shadow is about Fitzsimmons' personal regeneration in the aftermath of those experiences. Based on a specific set of psychopathological disorders from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM-IV), Fitzsimmons describes the songs as "a real and long coming confrontation with personal demons, past mistakes, and the specter of mental illness which has hovered over me for the great majority of my life." This is a harrowing, beautiful and cathartic album – do yourself a favor and check it out.
Hayes Carll
KMAG YOYO
(& other American stories)
Lost Highway Records
 
Hayes Carll hasn't been resting on his laurels since topping critics polls and winning awards for his amazing 2008 album, Trouble in Mind. Instead, he's been on the road nearly nonstop with his band, The Poor Choices. Along the way, he's been inspired to write a crop of new tunes that the acclaimed songwriter says are "a layman's take on our country - a snapshot of America in some small way." The result: the sharply drawn collection KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories) [kay-mag, yo-yo]. "I wanted to challenge myself musically," says Carll, "And see if I could capture that live dynamic." A lot of the songs came with the music first, with the music calling the lyrics. The band had developed little bit of swagger by the time they hit the studio, which was part of what Carll wanted to capture. "We'd been out on the road for a couple years and were sounding good together," says Carll. "Combining that with some timely songs, I think we came up with something special."
 
Dirty Vegas
Electric Love
OM
 
After touring the world on the strength of two albums, two film scores, and an international dance hit that snagged a Grammy, Dirty Vegas parted ways in 2005 and took a breather. The group reconvened four years later and what started as a single experiment in the studio soon blossomed into a brand-new beginning… And that taste of true musical freedom pulses throughout Electric Love. The results are versatile enough, whether it's playing at a Bar in Brooklyn or blasting at an Ibiza Beach Party. "Pressure" was the first song recorded after Dirty Vegas got back together and is perhaps the most buoyant effort on the album, with a propulsive tribal groove that slams like the group never left. Guitar riffs and twittering synths flirt like natural bedfellows on songs such as "Little White Doves" and "Emma," while "Electric Love" is a bass heavy dance floor stomper. Dirty Vegas are back and booties around the world couldn't be happier.
Amanda Shires
Carrying Lightning
Siver Knife

 
Lubbock-based singer / songwriter /fiddler, Amanda Shires, is blessed with a singular, literate songwriting style and a crystalline, distinct voice that hints at her Texas roots. Much like Neko Case's Blacklisted and Lucinda Williams' Happy Woman Blues, Carrying Lightning is the work of an artist gaining control of her considerable talents and funneling them into a cohesive whole. From playing fiddle in the Texas Playboys at the precocious age of 15 to playing with Gwyneth Paltrow in Country Strong just this year, Shires displays the kind of talent that has garnered her praise from artists like Justin Townes Earle, DeVotchKa and Jason Isbell. Now you may join the club. Check it out!
 
 
 
 
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