Alexander, “Alexander”

Alexander

Alexander

Vagrant Records

Release Date : March 1, 2011

Available at Amazon and iTunes

I am so glad it is 70 degrees in Dallas,  because Alex Ebert’s debut solo album, Alexander, is perfect for sunny, breezy weather. Most of you probably know Ebert’s work as lead singer/songwriter/messiah of the incredibly popular Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. If you are a fan of those guys, chances are you will love this album.

photo courtesy of Vagrant Records

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PJ Harvey “Let England Shake”

PJ Harvey

Let England Shake

Vagrant Records

Release Date : February 15, 2011

**Stream the album on NPR **

PJ Harvey’s eighth studio album, Let England Shake, is a work of art. She recorded the album in a 19th century church in Dorset, located on the South West coast of England. Joining her in the studio were longtime friends and collaborators Mick Harvey (no relation) and John Parish and producer Flood.

In numerous interviews Polly Jean Harvey states that her goal with each album is for it to be different than the previous, and in that she is far more successful than her peers. The goth-electro foreboding of 1998’s Is This Desire? gave way to 2000’s pure rock Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, an album for which she won the Mercury Prize. 2007’s White Chalk was also critically lauded and for this album Harvey ditched her Gretsch Broadkaster for the piano. While the instruments and the overall sound of each album differs from one to the next you could say that each of these albums dealt with the inner world and subjects ranged from subjects like unrequited love to death to sex; the personal politics and torments and joys that make us human. On Let England Shake, Harvey places the personal politics aside and focuses on the outside world. Images of war and its impact on the land are a common subject matter here with allusion to both Afghanistan and World War I, however, the music shifts the overall tone of the song so that the album does not feel heavy handed. To put it bluntly, Harvey does not preach to her listeners, which is unique for such a political album.

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Album Review : James Vincent McMorrow “Early in the Morning”

James Vincent McMorrow

Early in the Morning

Vagrant Records

release date : January 25, 2011

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you exiled yourself for five months in a house located on the Irish shores with nothing but musical instruments and recording equipment? Well, if you were James Vincent McMorrow you would leave exile having created a stunning debut album. Early in the Morning (Vagrant Records 2011) was originally self-released in Ireland in early 2010 to critical praise…and praise be to modern technology, for without it this album could not have been created. McMorrow, a multi-instrumentalist, played every instrument and sang every note. The album clocks in at just over forty minutes, so it is perfect for a long car ride or a sexy bath.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewwFGlNBiq8&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]

Regarding the creation of this album, McMorrow writes, “This record was borne out of my desire to create something singular, take the simplest of chords, wrap them in washes of melody, so lines come in, they drop out, everything ebbs and flows as the songs move towards their inevitable end… Music tends to reveal itself to me over the course of weeks and months. It’s probably quite like sculpting, you have a chisel, you know what’s waiting for you inside the stone, all that’s left is to chip away the pieces and reveal it” (click me for source).

Early in the Morning is a work of art…suitable for listening in its entirety rather than picking apart and adding single tracks to a playlist. Songs flow from one to the next and his voice shifts from a sensual sincerity on songs such as “Breaking Hearts” to soaring to unexpected heights on tracks like “From the Woods.” McMorrow cites writers F. Scott Fitzgerald and John Steinbeck as influences, and this can be heard in songs like “This Old Dark Machine.” Overall, my ears give McMorrow’s debut two thumbs up.

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/18726365[/vimeo]

Favorite tracks – “Sparrow and the Wolf,” “This Old Dark Machine,” “From the Woods!!”

Most Favorite Track – “Breaking Hearts”

You can buy Early in the Morning via Amazon, iTunes (comes loaded with bonus tracks), or at your favorite local record store. Check out his website by clicking here.

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