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Album Review: Charlie Robison – Beautiful Day

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Charlie Robison - Beautiful DayThere was a time not long ago when it would have been pretty easy to assert that that Bruce was the best songwriter in the Robison clan. Brother Charlie’s latest effort makes a strong case for reconsideration of that position.

Birthed in the aftermath of a divorce from his wife of nine years, Dixie Chick Emily, Beautiful Day is both Charlie’s most inspired disc and his most listenable, an album that beautifully balances hooky rhythms and crisp production with his typically razor-sharp lyrics (all of this underscored by guitarist Charlie Sexton’s engaging and tasteful contributions).

It is also Robison’s most personal work to date, if not his most adventurous. Although its content is neither as epic nor as literarily weighty as much of the material on seminal disc Life of The Party, Beautiful Day is considerably more emotionally revealing.

From the album’s opening lyrics, which finds him unapologetically waxing on his ex and her new life in Venice (CA), Robison leaves no doubt that the next 37 minutes will be about a man’s journey through hell.

It is a journey made all the more rewarding, however, for the fact that Robison embarks on it somewhat begrudgingly. There is a veil of bitterness and a palpable stubbornness that emanates from his singing and songwriting, and it is when those things finally ebb into disappointment that we are offered a rare glimpse of Robison with his guard down; so distraught is he on this abum that he can no longer rely only on the humor and sarcasm through which he has often discharged his feelings into lyric.

On Beautiful Day we see a Robison who is heartbroken and harboring a pain that his background and machismo won’t fully allow him to bear. “Reconsider,” written by Keith Gattis and Charles Brocco, is a devastatingly honest plea for reconciliation, while the self-penned following track “Feelin’ Good” admits resignation to the fact that you can’t change what you can’t change, even when you had–and would give anything to get back–an angel who “promised she’d deliver.”

“She’d save my soul,” Robison sings. “But she left a hole.”

By the time the disc rolls into its final few tracks the lyrics have devolved slightly (becoming somewhat less focused that those that make up the first half-dozen stellar songs), but Robison dives head first into the music, offering up a final string of performances that read like absolute emotional immersion. Although “If The Rain Don’t Stop,” “Middle of the Night” and “She’s So Fine” are middling by the standards of the rest of the album, it is on these three tracks that Robison sounds immeasurably connected, a man with a guitar clinging to the only thing he has left, as if he’s using his art to shield him from a inconsolably painful world.

His closing take on Springsteen’s “Racing In The Streets” (from 1978’s Darkness on the Edge of Town) is both eerie and gripping, a fitting end to an album that is not entirely hopeful. It’s inclusion here is telling, and makes you wonder just how beautiful Charlie Robison’s days are these days.

Jim Malec is a journalist whose work has appeared in American Songwriter, Country Weekly, Denver Westword and others. He is the founder of American Noise and former Managing Editor of The 9513.

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Album Reviews

Album Review: Yelle – Safari Disco Club

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When Yelle arrived on the scene in 2006, it was with “Je Veux Te Voir,” an attitude-packed and hilariously vulgar diss track directed toward rapper Cuizinier for his misogynistic views. The 2007 debut album, Pop Up, spawned two more minor hits with “A Cause des Garçons” and “Ce Jeu.” The French trio, led by singer Julie Budet, established themselves as purveyors of summery electropop. Then, they all but disappeared.

To a certain extent, Yelle have kept busy since their first album, remixing Katy Perry’s “Hot ‘n’ Cold” and appearing on the Kennedy track “John and Yoko,” as well as covering “Who’s That Girl?” by Robyn. However, in such a fast-paced music environment, no one can afford to take four years between albums unless the result is something that could universally be considered a masterpiece. Yelle’s sophomore release, Safari Disco Club, is a good effort that falls short of legendary status.

They’ve grown out of the youthful spirit of Pop Up, though “C’est Pas Une Vie” packs a bright punch, while “Que Veux-Tu” and “Unillusion” make good use of ’80s pop references. Songs like “Chimie Physique” and “La Musique” are much more mature in tone than anything Yelle have released before. There’s also more actual singing from Budet, rather than the sing-rapping previously employed. Safari Disco Club showcases a more developed act, but it doesn’t sound like four years’ worth of growth. The more subdued approach makes sense, but the songs aren’t as engaging as established fans might expect.

The dance scene has changed drastically since Yelle’s debut. This isn’t to say that producers GrandMarnier and Tepr should have gone for a dubstep approach—it wouldn’t suit Budet’s voice, though “S’Eteint le Soleil” has hints of grimey bass—but in an environment where the fresh-faced Londoner Katy B is poised for a takeover, it’s difficult to see where Yelle’s role is now.

The album sounds solid, with plenty of agile synths to spare, but it’s difficult to see what role it plays; it’s not exactly more of the same, but it may as well be. Safari Disco Club is worth a listen, but it fails to assert itself as something that demands listeners’ attention.

https://youtu.be/c53iVBzdBiY

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Album Reviews

Album Review: Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record

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In the five years since Canadian chamber-rock band Broken Social Scene released its last album, lead Scenester Kevin Drew has ably stepped into indie-stardom, nurturing mass-anticipation for the collective’s upcoming opus.

Enter Forgiveness Rock Record. With the Toronto outfit choosing to explore every bit of the space that their physical largesse affords, the wait has been worth it—even if the album requires a bit of stamina in order to fully grasp the triumph.

Perhaps the group—composed of a fluid membership that often numbers well into double digits—is finally becoming exactly what it is they were likely always going to be: a dramatic, sweeping and engrossing baroque-rock troupe. Besides, it’s not often that a group that has featured a melodica in the past acts as though it’s a power-pop trio, which many of their earlier songs have suggested.

While a lack of sonic cohesion does make itself evident, as the result of a mixed bag of styles that can often distract rather than attract, the significant and unifying thread of Kevin Drew’s Jeff Tweedy-esque, achy vocals equip the entire proceedings with immense heart. Some sort of binding agent is necessary, however, due to the divergent styles showcased. By showing off their skills in Post-rock (“Meet Me in the Basement”), bombastic, arena-anthems (“World Sick”), playful prog (“Chase Scene”) and effective melody making (“Texico Bitches”), it’s quite clear that this is a group that is more comfortable stretching their musical legs than the average listener will likely be sinking their teeth into this album.

Given the amount of time between records, not only is Forgiveness Rock Record an example of good things coming to those who wait, but also, to those who also don’t mind putting forth a little effort to gain great reward.

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Album Reviews

EP Review: Dan Fisk — Bruises from the Backseat

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When an album’s liner notes list multiple banjo players on the same song, you know it’s going to be an enjoyable listen. Dan Fisk has two banjo pickers on“Life and Limb,”  from his new solo EP, but that’s not the only thing he’s got going for him on Bruises from the Backseat (out 6/28).

Fisk (an upstate New Yorker who’s spent the past decade in Virginia), has a radio-ready, slightly raspy voice and solid songwriting skills. Album opener “A Thousand Love Songs” is the highlight of the disc, and had it been released fifteen years ago when Vertical Horizon and Matchbox 20 were flying up the charts, Fisk would probably be blowing his nose with $20 bills right now.

The EP’s sole cover is a version of Paul Simon’s “Stranded in a Limousine,” which features fellow area singer-songwriter Ted Garber on harmonica. It feels a little out of place among the more mellow tracks on the record, but it’s definitely a fun listen.

Bruises from the Backseat is a promising solo release from Fisk. Let’s hope a full-length record is next.

Listen If You Like: Duncan Sheik, The Wallflowers, Joe Pug, Jason Mraz

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