Category: Music Reviews

The Sheperd's Dog

Iron and Wine
The Shepherd’s Dog
Sub Pop Records
By: Kelly Reed
4 out of 5 stars

The man behind Iron and Wine, Sam Beam, has released his third full-length album The Shepherd’s Dog this past September. It is hard to put into words how much I have enjoyed this album. This South Carolina raised, soul inspiring, bearded man creates something that is ultimately unique in each of the albums he has put out and The Shepherd’s Dog is up there with the best. To set this album apart from others, Beam has brought in Joey Burns, and Paul Niehaus of the Arizona rock band Calexico, and a series of jazz musicians to give songs such as “House by the sea” and “Wolves (Song of the Shepherd’s Dog)” a very distinct jazz-funk sort of sound. This is an album that is filled with variety that keeps a body listening. Sam Beam’s voice in “Resurrection fern” is filled with an intense dolor as he tells his story. Through out the record Beam keeps bringing up references to animals such as dogs, and broken birds; Beam also goes on with allusions to death, religion, and people of misfortune. Although Sam Beam has stated in the past that he is agnostic, there are religious and biblical references that show up through out his songs, like “The devil never sleeps” a fast paced jazz song that pours from your speakers where Sam Beam is accompanied with lovely backup vocals that sings, “No one lives forever and the Devil never sleeps alone”. By the time the last song has ended, there is this air of anticipation that leaves you feeling as if the album really hasn’t ended and another song is soon to play. That is probably the biggest disappointment of all, but it’s okay, it gives you and me something to look forward to. I can only hope his next album will be as beautiful as The Shepherd’s Dog.

Sticking Fingers into Sockets

Los Campesinos!
Sticking Fingers into SocketsArts and Crafts Records

By Luke Skoza

Rating: 3 out of 5

As the sound of Los Campesinos! flies into your eardrums you can’t help but laugh and let the good times roll. This seven-piece group (roughly translating to “the Peasants”) formed in 2006 in Cardiff, England. The lineup includes Aleksandra (keyboard, horn), Ellen (bass), Gareth (glockenspiel), Harriet (violin, keyboard), Neil (guitar), Ollie (drums), and Tom (guitar), with all members sharing vocals and the last name of Campesinos! Sticking Fingers into Sockets is the bands first album and as the name suggests its content is loaded with offbeat humor. This indie rock album’s sound is accented humorously with witt and precision. Each guitar and rhythm section oozes cheerful sounds and chiming bells accent each of these sounds. They are then accompanied by rousing vocals and add a pinch of weirdness and you have the Los Campesinos! sound. The opening track “We Throw Parties, and You Throw Knives” opens with a whimsical and hilarious edge that foreshadows the rest of the album. Next up “It Started with a Mix,” “And Don’t Tell To Do The Mathis” keep the energetic vibe flowing until “Frontwards” and “You! Me! Dancing!” begin to rotate. These two exuberant and lifting tracks use every element present in Los Campesino’s eccentric sound library. “You! Me! Dancing!” is easily the highlight of the album and its filled with upbeat and good natured feelings and sounds Sticking Fingers into Sockets is for those looking for a good chuckle and are feeling little weird. If these moods or any similar moods happen to strike you give the Los Campesinos! a listen.

The Scene of the Crime

Bettye LaVette
The Scene of the Crime
Anti Records
Review by Bob Hartzer
3.5 out of 5

The career of Bettye LaVette can be described as a long struggle towards recognition. LaVette grew up in Detroit and in the early sixties toured with Otis Redding and then James Brown. She did Broadway and cut a record with Motown in 1982. Over the past decade there has been a revival in her music and she has released two live albums and one studio album since 2000. With a powerful voice, which is reminiscent of Koko Taylor, and a backing band by the name of The Drive-By Truckers, LaVette delivers an incredibly soulful LP called The Scene of the Crime. Raspy, beautiful, and absolutely heartfelt, LaVette’s voice sears through the speakers on the first track, “Still Want to be Your Baby (Take me Like I am).” The third track, “Jealousy,” shows the backing band’s skill at emphasizing LaVette’s vocal talent. The song “You Don’t Know Me At All,” LaVette sings the blues, as she is truly destined to do. “Somebody Pick Up My Pieces” is a sweet ballad, which has a surprisingly fantastic pedal steel guitar element. The rhythm guitar work done on “They Call It Love” is a joy. It’s great to hear such a stripped down sound with LaVette’s smokey voice. “The Last Time” has a sound that is reminiscent of a slowed down Eddie Van Halen guitar part. The album has its share of ballads, and a few up beat numbers. Bettye LaVette’s voice is the star of the show, and she is quite deserving of it.

Last Light

Matt Pond PA
Last Light
Altitude Records
4.5 out of 5 stars
By Justin Gumbel

The eighth full-length album, Last Light, by Matt Pond PA is quite simply one of the best pop-indie LPs that you will ever hear.  Matt Pond PA, originating in Philadelphia, began its quest to become one of the greatest indie bands in 1998.  Matt Pond PA has a sound that resembles The Fray.  If you are a fan of The Fray, you should check out this album.  This album has a poppy feel, yet there is too much emotion to file it as pop and walk away.  Anyone who ignores the music on this LP because it does have a poppy feel is missing out on some great music.
The title track, “Last Light,” is the opening track, and it sets the stage for the rest of the album.  The duet on the track, “Taught To Look Away,” is very well done.  Throughout the record in general, Matt Pond, along with his back-up vocalists, do a wonderful job.  The vocals are very melodic and powerful, yet are never overdone.

The highlight of this album is Matt Pond and his amazing singing/songwriting ability.  However, the instrumentals must not be overlooked.  Not only do they support the vocals, they are by no means lacking in anyway.  Though here is no doubt that Pond is the highlight of this album.  The mix of both acoustic and upbeat tracks on the record is perfect.  Just as the album seems to get a bit too slow and sad, a nice upbeat song comes on and gets you tapping your foot along to the beat.  One of the best acoustic tracks on the album is “Locate The Pieces.”  The piano is a great touch and the acoustic rhythm guitar is also very soothing.  Matt Pond PA is a great indie-pop band that everyone should check out.  Matt Pond PA’s newest album will not disappoint either the new listener or the Matt Pond PA faithful.