From NY Times 8/29
By JIM ADKINS
GUIDED BY VOICES — Occasionally I go through a funk in which I’m sick of all my records. I was in one recently until I heard some news that slapped me in the face. Guided by Voices is calling it quits after more than two decades. Since then I’ve been pulling out all my Guided by Voices albums. I once spent a month studying Doug Gillard’s guitar parts before playing a show in a Guided by Voices tribute band. Figuring out the guitar solo for ”I Am a Tree” made me feel more confident about using guitar solos in my music. And the album ”Bee Thousand” blew me away from the first spin. I couldn’t believe how many undeniable hooks they were cramming into a minute-and-a half tune. Robert Pollard is the most naturally charismatic frontman I have ever seen. Now through the end of the year, the band will be traveling across the country on its ”Electrifying Conclusion” tour.
LOW — You could ask a room full of people what ”punk” means and get a room full of different answers. Mine would be Low, the Duluth, Minn., trio that does things very much on its own terms. Its gentle and haunting songs are every bit as engaging and confrontational as anything I’ve heard in punk. I’ve been digging through its new three-CD plus DVD compilation called ”A Lifetime of Temporary Relief: 10 Years of B-Sides and Rarities” (Chairkickers Music). One of my favorite songs of all time is ”Will the Night.” The melody and lyrics on the demo version on the second disc make me stop whatever I’m doing and give them my full attention. The song builds like a 50’s doo-wop tune, then crescendos and ends in a way that sounds almost symphonic. I’ve always loved performers who can do great male-female melodies with vocals. The only ones who have Low beat in that category are Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.
THE VELVET TEEN — There are arguments against the proliferation of digital home recording gear. You don’t have to listen for long to hear how a band making its own records can go horribly wrong. But an inspiring example of putting the technology in the right hands is the new Velvet Teen album, ”Elysium” (Slowdance Records). It is ambitious and cinematic. The album starts with processed, cut-up sounds, like a robot dropping its keys and fumbling around in the dark to find them. The band then melds them into beautiful songs with piano and strings. The singer Judah Nagler must be one of those talented people who doesn’t need to think about what he’s doing. The vocal passages on ”Penicillin (Doesn’t Mean Much)” are effortlessly fluid.
The Velvet Teen cut he’s talking about is actually pretty sweet.
This week I’m working from home so I don’t get trampled by any Republicans on my way to Times Square. More important, I am watching Cara’s tiny kitten all week. She has really taken to me. I’ve never had a pet before so everything’s pretty amusing to me. I find myself talking to her all day. My favorite thing to tell her is “I see what you’re doing!” especially when she pulls the computer mouse away from me while I’m typing. Yesterday I taught her how to blog. I wish I had a camera.
Also, we’ve decided to go to Philadelphia this weekend for no particular reason. If anyone’s got suggestions about what to do in Philly, please share! I haven’t been there in ten years.
UPDATE: OK, I took a camera phone picture. Posting baby animals on my blog … I’ve turned into Sarah! Here’s my new best friend suggesting we listen to some Gastr Del Sol: