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Album Review: Peter Cooper – The Llyod Green Album

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Next time you’re at the record store, flip through a stack of country LPs. Chances are you’ll see one name on at least half of them: Lloyd Green. The living legend and his pedal steel have appeared on hundreds of hits and songs we now call classics in his approximately fifty-year career. “Girl on the Billboard?” He was on that. “D-I-V-O-R-C-E?” That one too. “Golden Ring,” “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” and, more recently, Alan Jackson’s “Remember When?” Check, check, and check.

Green’s biggest fan might be journalist/singer/songwriter Peter Cooper, who used Green on his debut album Mission Door. Though Cooper’s latest is ostensibly a solo record, Green makes for a fine duet partner. He may not have sung a single note, but it’s his pedal steel that serves as the album’s life force; with licks that range from mournful to mocking, it’s easy to see just why Green’s the best in the business.

According to Cooper’s website, he handed these songs over to Green as “nearly blank canvases,” with only his vocals and acoustic guitar. Green then composed and recorded the steel arrangements for each song before the rest of the song was filled out with other musicians and vocalists including Kim Carnes, Rodney Crowell, and frequent Cooper collaborator Eric Brace.

Cooper is a songwriter’s songwriter, with an eye for detail, ability to turn a phrase, and slightly askew sense of humor possessed by the Kris Kristoffersons and Tom T. Halls of the world. Thus, it makes sense that those would be two of the artists he covers here with great skill. On Kristofferson’s “Here Comes That Rainbow Again” he sings about kindness found in unexpected places, like scenes borrowed from Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. On Hall’s “Mama, Bake a Pie,” about a disabled, alcoholic veteran, Cooper’s quiet delivery underscores the morbid humor of lines like “Since I won’t be walking I suppose I’ll save some money buying shoes.”

The originals are cockeyed gems, ranging from charmingly self-deprecating autobiography on album opener “Dumb Luck” to portraits of some left-of-center characters like Nashville’s man about town Dub Cornett (“What Dub Does,” a song that leaves the listener with more questions than answer) and Elmer Hahn, an oldtimer at a slowly dying Milwaukee polka bar (“Elmer the Dancer”). Cooper’s voice, slightly raspy with a hint of dry wit, fits these tunes like a well-worn ballcap.

As with Mission Door, one of the album’s strongest tracks is a song co-written with Todd Snider. “The Last Laugh,” which also appeared on Snider’s 2009 release The Excitement Plan, is told from the perspective of a loveable sad sack who proclaims “I want a six-foot tombstone, two-foot thick/With the words engraved ‘I tried to tell you all I was sick/So you will know that I was right when you go walkin’ on past/You tried to tell me I was well/Look who’s laughing last.”

Closing out the record is “Train to Birmingham,” penned by John Hiatt, on which Cooper sings “I never get to Birmingham…Getting there ain’t the plan/I just like the feel of going home.” Listening to The Lloyd Green Album gives one the same feeling.

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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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