Saturday, February 14, 2009

3 albums that shouldn't fall through the cracks

Another installment in my series of paying tribute to lesser known albums/bands that have been good to me over the years.

Nels Andrews - Sunday Shoes
In terms of first albums, and also complete albums, Sunday Shoes stands at the top in my mind. This former Albuquerque (now Brooklyn) resident played and toured regionally around New Mexico for a number of years behind this album, although I think he has maintained a bigger fan base in Europe for most of that span. The weight of the songwriting on this album was apparent to me when I saw him open solo for the Magnolia Electric Co. a few years ago. The crowd was a mix of indie and alt country types, although in Lubbock those people are the same, but nonetheless, by the end of the show, he had everyone's attention and basically had the room silenced, which is no small feat at any show in Lubbock. This album is still fairly generally available, and you can download it off all of the major sites as well. I hesitate to pick stand-out tracks from this album, but "Jesse's Mom," "Weight," and "Petal to a Bee" are 3 tracks that should give you a good idea of the strength of this album.

Milton Mapes - Westernaire
Milton Mapes is somewhat of a quintessential Austin band, and I don't mean that in a bad way. They tour very rarely, but they continue to put out good music, and only tour when the opportunity is just right. For that matter, they usually only tour as a 2 piece, so you'll have to catch them in Austin or Dallas to get the full band show. I can't remember if MM is officially "broken up" or not, but they generally perform under the moniker of Monahans now, which I think has some inspiration in the duly titled song from Westernaire. They still play occasionally under the name Milton Mapes, named after the lead singer's grandfather if I remember correctly, so I think the different band names have more to do with artistic vision than anything else (remember when I said quintessential Austin band?). Westernaire is a solidly thematic album (whatever that means), and overall is a great listen, as is their first album The State Line. Standout tracks you might want to check out are "Maybe You're Here, Maybe You're Not" and "The Only Sound That Matters."

Deadman - Paramour
This album was a tough selection, and one that a number of people I know might not agree with, simply because the current incarnation of Deadman, i.e. Steven Collins, isn't really all that similar to the Deadman that made Paramour. This album has a quiet brilliance to it (once again, whatever that means), but very honestly is an amazing collection of songs with beautiful harmonies from Steven and Sherilyn Collins. "The Ballad of Padre Miguel" blends Mexican guitar and alt country/indie rock in as natural of a way as one could ever hope to put together, that is, it doesn't sound contrived or unauthentic. "Ghost Story" is another great track on the album, and the one that first drew me to the band at a live show in Fort Worth 7 or 8 years ago. I don't know that I can fully describe this album, but I think it was made at a point in time where everything and everyone came together with the right influences and just got it "right." Sounds cliched I know, but it's well worth it. I won't even talk about the latest releases from Deadman, because it's just going to take away from what I just said about this one.

Both Paramour and Westernaire are still widely available, either as downloads, or used on Amazon. Won't cost you much to check them out.

Just missed the cut:

The Court & Spark - Dead Diamond River EP
This now inactive, formerly San Francisco based band (i.e., another that may not have completely broken up, but you can pretty well count them as done) put out a number of good releases over the years. This is a good sampling of their music, with the undisputed highlight being "Lucia." Check it out sometime.

Collin Herring - Avoiding the Circus
The first release from this Fort Worth based singer/songwriter, which got him a good deal of attention at the time, is not a favorite of mine all the way through. However, "Train on Her Brain" is one of the best unknown alt country rockers that you can find. "Heaven Doesn't Work Out" is not too bad either. Both songs are worth checking out, although in my opinion probably stand out far above the rest of the album. He's got a new album out, his third - Past Life Crashing - which is really growing on me. He unfortunately lost probably the biggest champion of his music in Miles of Music, so if you like what you hear, he's a good guy and makes good music, so please check out his more recent releases. "Punches" from the new album is a great place to start.

No comments: