Review: Elf Power, In A Cave

Andrew Rieger’s psychedelic-pop combo Elf Power coalesced as part of the Elephant 6 collective in Athens, Georgia, which also included Neutral Milk Hotel, Of Montreal, and The Apples In Stereo. Elf Power is still intimately connected to the local scene, co-running the Orange Twin label and recording with fellow Athenian Vic Chesnutt. In A Cave, the band’s ninth full-length, includes four songs co-written with guitarist Eric Harris, formerly of Olivia Tremor Control, but the driving force on the album is still Rieger, whose penchant for gentle, Tolkien-esque lyrical imagery remains in full force. Fans of earlier work will find In A Cave as comfortable as a favorite old sweater, and that pleasantly familiar feel is also Cave‘s biggest weakness. It’s full of charming, offbeat folk-pop, with a high point in “The Demon’s Daughter,” a melancholy ballad of love and remembrance. But Cave also lacks the creative diversity that made 2006′s superior Back To The Web so memorable, and it suffers from repetition. Cave feels like a group that’s comfortably going in circles, not finding a fresh way to do what it’s already done.

Originally published on March 24, 2008. Read the complete article.

Review: Retribution Gospel Choir: Retribution Gospel Choir

Alan Sparhawk’s main project, the Duluth slowcore trio Low, has cranked up the volume and feedback so much over its last couple of albums that Sparhawk’s raucous side projects Black Eyed Snakes and Retribution Gospel Choir aren’t as much of a surprise as they once were. Looking back, they now seem like ways for Sparhawk to experiment with new sounds before committing himself to adding them into the Low recipe. But there’s still lots of ground to explore with RGC—he’s able to go even further out into louder, harder-rocking territory, and he sounds as comfortable there as he ever did in Low’s quiet, still spaces.

Originally a duo project with Sun Kil Moon’s Mark Kozelek, RGC is now a Sparhawk-fronted trio also featuring Low bassist Matt Livingston, though Kozelek is still involved as producer. (It’s his record label, too.) Two songs here first appeared on Low’s Drums And Guns, and the changes are instructive: “Breaker” morphs from an organ-and-handclap-driven drone to one built around a thrashing guitar riff, with the urgency kicked up a notch. Better? Not exactly, but it’s like watching two great actors interpret the same role in different ways—they’re both right, and perfect for their context.

Originally published on March 17, 2008. Read the complete article.

Land before time: 11 great prehistoric flicks

On March 8, moviegoers will jump back in time to an age of mammoths, saber-tooth cats and Stone Age humans fighting for survival in “10,000 BC,” the latest movie from director Roland Emmerich. It probably won’t be a paragon of scientific accuracy, judging by Emmerich’s previous track record on “Independence Day,” “The Day After Tomorrow” and “Godzilla.” But Hollywood has a history of mining prehistory for entertainment value over archaeological exactness — or, as legendary animator Ray Harryhausen once put it, “professors probably don’t go to the cinema anyway.” To extend your travels through the ancient world, here are some earlier high points of Hollywood’s trips back to the ages of cavemen and dinosaurs.

Originally published on March 10, 2008. Read the complete article.

Review: Mike Doughty, Golden Delicious

When former Soul Coughing vocalist Mike Doughty signed on with Dave Matthews’ record label, it was a clear statement of the direction he wanted his music to evolve in, citing his excitement at finding a place where the indie-rock/rap hybrid of his old band could coexist with a mellower jam-band aesthetic. He seems happy enough in that new mode, which he unrolled on 2005′s Haughty Melodic and continues on Golden Delicious. But it’s disappointing to hear Doughty’s early promise as a lyricist now focused on such bland music: It’s like watching Allen Ginsberg toss aside his Beat poetry to write scripts for The King Of Queens. (Okay, maybe not that bad.) Golden Delicious rides along on an unchanging, mid-tempo vibe that puts too much weight on Doughty’s limited vocal range, stumbling midway through on the cringe-inducingly unfunky “More Bacon Than The Pan Can Handle.”

Originally published on March 3, 2008. Read the complete article.

Interview: Gary Louris

Since Minneapolitan alt-country pioneers The Jayhawks disbanded in 2005, former leader Gary Louris has kept busy as a songwriter (including work on Dixie Chicks’ Taking The Long Way) and producer, as well as touring and recording again with his old Jayhawks bandmate Mark Olson, with whom he has a duo album set for release later this year. This month, he releases his first solo record, Vagabonds, which explores the sound of the 1970s’ California singer-songwriter scene. He’ll embark on a U.S. tour in March. On a snowy day the week before the album’s release, he talked to The A.V. Club about producing other people, the possibility of a Jayhawks reunion, and why he doesn’t write songs about the chick he wants to bang.

Originally published March 2, 2008 on Read the complete article.

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