08/20/08 Eddies Attic Decatur, GA
08/21/08 Workplay Theater Birmingham, AL
08/23/08 Evening Muse Charlotte, NC
08/25/08 IOTA Club Arlington, VA
08/26/08 Gravity Lounge Charlottesville, VA
08/27/08 Coffee East Easton, MD
08/28/08 Rockwood Music Hall New York, NY
08/29/08 Lucky Star Lounge Front Royal, VA
09/04/08 Schubas Chicago, IL
09/19/08 Rosenzweig Arts Center Columbus, MS
09/24/08 Le Set De La Butte Paris, France
09/25/08 La Bellevilloise Paris, France
09/26/08 Le Manga Saint Quentin en Yvelines, France
09/27/08 Le Soleil De La Butte Paris, France
09/30/08 Le Palais Bar Paris, France
There isn't much that's nicer after a long day at work than listening to a nice, laidback album of gentle, melodic music to help you unwind and forget the daily dose of bullshit you've dealt with at the workplace. Some of my favorite albums of this sort are" John Prine's first "greatest hits" compilation, Prime Prine; Mazzy Star's So Tonight That I Might See; anything by Azure Ray; and Benjamin Løzninger's Crossweek EP (previously mentioned here). Music can be an effective healing balm--and here are two great new albums of aloe vera sound to salve away the razorburn of our everyday lives.
Peter Bradley Adams' (MySpace) new album, Leavetaking, which was just released on August 5th by Seattle's Sarathan Records, is a lovely album of straightforward singer/songwriter music in the alt-country tradition of the aforementioned John Prine or The Jayhawks. Adams was once one-half of the duo eastmountainsouth, but once their label DreamWorks tanked, Adams self-released a solo album, Gather Up, in 2006 and now, two years later, has released another album of music that will appeal to folkies and indie-rockers alike.
Adams' Leavetaking would be a great album if it featured nothing more than him and a guitar. He's a hell of a songwriter, and tracks like "I'll Forget You" and "So Are You To Me" (a song that has become so popular as a wedding piece he's giving away the sheet music for free on his MySpace page) will resonate well with anyone who has loved and/or lost. But Adams' music is a lot more varied. From the piano-and-acoustic-guitar Americana of album opener "The Longer I Run" to the reverse-reverbed introductory notes of "Always" (a song that out-Ben-Folds Ben Folds himself), Adams' arrangements are excellent examples of layered production. I particularly like the languid banjo plucking on "I'll Forget You" and "Always," which gives those songs a beautiful roots-music feel that calls to mind scenes of pastoral relaxation. The echoed vocals and pristine guitar tones of "Ohio" creates an air of autumnal melancholy very reminiscent of the Jayhawks' Rainy Day Music. In fact, Adams' voice sounds a lot like Gary Louris' at times--especially on "Keep Us," a track that literally defines exactly what "alt-country" is--but that's not a bad thing. The album concludes with the brief "Song for Viola," on which Adams trades lyrics for a breathtaking viola solo that will crack open even the stoniest heart with its eerie beauty. Anyone who remembers watching Peter Burns' The Civil War on PBS back in the early '90s may find themselves thinking of that documentary's haunting theme, "Ashokan Farewell" after listening to "Song for Viola," but whereas "Ashokan Farewell" has the solemn finality of a graveside goodbye, Adams' album closer has more of a "I hope I'll see you again someday" feeling that'll leave you with a wistful longing.
08/07/08 El Rey Theatre L.A., CA
08/22/08 The Blank Club (w/ the mumlers!) San Jose, California
09/13/08 MONOLITH @ RED ROCKS!! Morrison, Colorado
09/15/08 Paladium Salt Lake City,UT
09/21/08 TREASURE ISLAND MUSIC FESTIVAL (hell yeahhhhhh) SAN FRANCISCO BAY, California
09/28/08 The Casbah (w/ Ra Ra Riot!!) San Diego, California
09/29/08 Modified (w/ Ra Ra Riot) Phoenix, Arizona
09/30/08 Plush (w/ Ra Ra Riot!@! yea!@) Tucson, Arizona
10/02/08 The Loft (w/ Ra Ra Riot) Dallas, Texas
10/03/08 Stubb’s (w/ Ra Ra Riot) Austin, Texas
10/04/08 Rudyards (w/ Ra Ra Riot) Houston, Texas
10/07/08 The Social (w/ Ra Ra Riot) Orlando, Florida
10/08/08 Club Downunder (w/ Ra Ra Riot) Tallahassee, Florida
10/10/08 Drunken UNICORN (w/ Ra Ra Riot!@$) AtlantA, Georgia
10/11/08 Local 506 (w/ Ra Ra Riot) Raleigh, North Carolina
10/12/08 Black Cat (w/ Ra Ra Riot) washington DC yo, Washington DC
10/14/08 Ottobar (w/ Ra Ra Riot) Baltimore, Maryland
10/15/08 Johnny Brenda’s (w/ Ra Ra Riot) PHILLY, Pennsylvania
10/18/08 Middle East Downstairs (w/ Ra Ra Riot) Boston, Massachusetts
10/20/08 Puma In-Store (Acoustic) Boston, Massachusetts
10/21/08 Puma In-Store (Acoustic) New York, New York
10/22/08 Case Western (STUDENTS ONLY) Cleveland, Ohio
10/28/08 UCSB Santa Barbara, California
10/29/08 Puma In-Store (Acoustic) Santa Monica, California
On the other hand, The Morning Benders' (MySpace) 100% totally free album of cover songs, aptly titled The Bedroom Covers (download it here), is a somewhat different creature--equally as relaxing, but much less alt-country and much more Arcade Firey. Since 2005, founder/frontman Chris Chu and friends (drummer Julian Harmon, bassist Tim Or, and guitarist/organist Joe Ferrell, all fellow alums of UC Berkeley) have been producing upbeat, bouncy guitar-pop with a sunny Californian sound. Imagine an odd, but lovable, combination of The Beach Boys and The Smiths and...you pretty much have The Morning Benders, a band whose lively music belies the sharp edge of their wit.
However, The Bedroom Covers sounds nothing like that. Or, well, not totally.
The album is precisely what it says it is: "a free album of covers we did in our apartment...our little thank you to everyone for all the love and support you given us over the last couple of months"--and as such, it has a very intimate, lo-fi atmosphere that will make you feel as though the band were hanging out right there in your pad with you, unwinding after a show by drinking some beers and playing some of their favorite songs. This is very obviously the effort of a band who wants to return a little of the love and support their fans have given them: it's a warm and cozy little effort that'll leave you with a smile even after a day spent dealing with your Bill-Lumbergh-wannabe boss.
The Benders cover a wide range of songs--everything from Roy Orbison's "Crying" to the Ronettes' "Why Don't They Let Us Fall In Love?" to Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams," The Cardigans' "Lovefool," and Talking Heads "Pull Up The Roots"--and each cover has a unique arrangement and atmosphere. Most of them are simple, downtempo tracks with heavily-reverbed vocals and laidback acoustic guitars, very basic percussion (mostly shakers, tambourines, and handclaps), though some, like their cover of The Crystals' classic "He's A Rebel" (one of my alltime favorite '60s jams), are downright energetic and punchy! For the most part, though, The Bedroom Covers is still a predominantly chilled-out affair, and it will chill you out. Especially on "Dreams," Chu's voice sounds positively ethereal, drifting like a cloud of smoke over the instruments. Needless to say, there isn't an ounce of fat or filler on this album, and all of the covers are fairly true to the originals. The band isn't interested in re-imagining these songs, they're simply playing songs they love, and that love is guaranteed to seep into you.
So the next time you come home ready to punch a hole in the wall because your jackass superiors have been hounding you all day about the damn cover sheets for your TPS reports, save yourself a trip to the hospital to have your knuckles re-set. Put Leavetaking or The Bedroom Covers on. Sit back and let the music massage you.