Archive for Brendan Benson

Mikal Cronin’s “MCII” Provides The Missing Link

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , on May 9, 2013 by johnbuckley100

Followers of Tulip Frenzy know that we have marveled for some time about how San Francisco could have in Ty Segall and Kelley Stoltz two artists who are both so alike and so different.  Ty heads to his basement studio all by his lonesome and produces album after album of thundering punk’n’psychedelic glories.  Kelley climbs the creaky stairs to his atelier and without any assistants crafts these pop gems that seem like a mashup between Ray Davies and Hermes’ finest saddle maker. These two towering talents may as well have been operating on different planets, not the same area code.  Until now…

We enjoyed Mikal Cronin’s first solo album, but honestly, the reason we were so interested in him was in his role as a Ty Segal sideman and collaborator. The reflected glory, the association, was sufficient to get our attention, but to hold it, he needed to produce a record we wanted to listen to as avidly as anything done by his harder rocking, shaggy friend.  Happily, now comes his wonderful second album, MCII, which fits directly into a modern power pop milieu familiar to anyone who loves the New Pornographers/A.C. Newman or Brendan Benson/Raconteurs.

But damn if, on the third album’s third song, “Am I Wrong” — the song on which Ty lends a hand — you don’t immediately think of Kelley Stoltz.  Wait, you don’t mean… Yes! We have the missing link!  The twain has met,  Ty Segall and Kelley Stoltz are connected!  See the electricity arc! Somewhere busking in the middle of Union Square, we see Ty and Kelley backing up Mikal, who by now has joined their ranks!

It’s a terrific album.  It would take the FBI to distinguish between the falsetto registers that Mikal and A.C. Newman can sometimes hit, which is a compliment.  In fact, there are moments when we swear we’re listening to the new album by Woods.  But this is a wholly original, deeply satisfying foray into modern American power pop, and wholly worthy of your interest in its own right, not just as an extension of Segallmania.

White Denim’s “D” And How Don Van Vliet’s Band Fared In Probate

Posted in Music with tags , , , on June 11, 2011 by johnbuckley100

Thirty seconds into “It’s Him” on White Denim’s new album, D, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Devendra Banhart inherited The Magic Band from Captain Beefheart. “To Byron Coley, Mr. Van Vliet left his ashtray heart. And to Mr. Banhart, he left his cassette player, his top hat, and his band.”

“Southern Prog” is how some have termed the expansion of White Denim from a trio to a double-axe murdering foursome, but this isn’t progrock.  This is sweet pop music rehearsed in Tex Watson’s garage, after an afternoon sipping jimson weed tea. Yes, the reference to The Minutemen is apt, but less so on D than anything that came before it. The addition of the perfectly named Austin Jenkins on second guitar doesn’t make it “Southern,” though having an additional guitarist adds a formalism to the rehearsed-within-an-inch-of-its-life machinery.  And when we say pop music, not Southern Prog, we mean that White Denim seem slightly closer in spirit to neighbor Jack White’s buddy Brendan Benson than to Duane and Dicky jamming with the Flaming Lips.  Moreover, progrock as a reference point only counts if a band like Citay can be thrown into this particular patch of prickly pear.

We did not expect ever to want to play a White Denim album for company, for they’ve previously been headphone stalwarts, guaranteed to clear a room waiting for the PTA meeting to start.  Yet D is such a tour de force we could see it entertaining a Mensa convention while anyone who ever loved Clear Spot could tap her feet and nod.  This is music for a late-night drive to the border, music to be played after that all-nighter as the sun rises over the Salton Sea.  More immediately, this is music to play as our Summer ’11 anthem.

A Correspondent Writes In Praise of the Fistful of Mercy And Brendon Benson Shows This Week

Posted in Music with tags , , on November 19, 2010 by johnbuckley100

A correspondent who has just had an unusually exciting week of live music attendance writes in:

“After the glorious spectacle that was the Sufjan Stevens’ concert at New York’s Beacon Theater, it was hard to imagine that the music I was in for the rest of the week could keep up with that quality and level of talent. But the second Hallelujah Chorus came in the form of Fistful of Mercy at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue in DC, a location that did not go unnoticed or unappreciated by the musicians performing on the synagogue’s bimah Tuesday night. It doesn’t seem appropriate to call this performance a concert. It was more a high holy week jam session with some amazing musicians — Dhani Harrison, Joseph Arthur, Ben Harper and Jessy Greene.    From what I could see, they had 13 guitars, a keyboard, bongos.  The three guitarists were augmented by Green on her violin against the stained glass backdrop.   The show was actually better than I expected, for while the song “Fistful of Mercy” instantly grabbed me when I heard it on the radio, I found the rest of As I Called You Down disappointing. There was nothing disappointing about this live show. From start to finish it was a rousing and spiritual experience unfolding in in the sanctuary. “Fistful of Mercy” was a tour de force rising all the way up to the domed roof.  Lest you think the evening was all solemn and pious, the musicians filled the time between songs exchanging quips and jokes including one extended riff on becoming a heavy metal band.  The final song of the encore, “With Whom You Belong” was performed, unplugged, at the edge of the stage/bimah, and the band then wade into the crowd, Fleshtones style.

“The culmination of musical high holy week was a night of pure rock’n’roll at the another music mecca — the 9:30 Club.    It was a night of smart, creative, interesting rock’n’roll that you get from Brendan Benson, backed by the Posies.  I love Brendan Benson’s songs because his music is so full of surprises with melodies taking fabulous twists and turns across a song.  On his albums, those twists come across as precise movements but can sometimes border on being too neat’n’clean.  Nothing neat and clean about the ruckus raised by Benson and the Posies Wednesday night. On every song, the talent and quality of the musicians was on display and the twists and turns taken through the Brendan Benson classics were all present and accounted for.  Benson was the reserved and bemused straight man to the playful Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer.  Benson and the gang closed their encore and my musical high holy week with an homage to Alex Chilton and a superb rendition of ‘September Gurls.'”

Kelley Stoltz “Circular Sounds” Gets A Jump on The Best Of 2008 Lists

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on February 18, 2008 by johnbuckley100

Because they’re friends, the reference point for San Francisco-based pop genius Kelley Stoltz has tended to be Brendan Benson.  And I can see that: they’re both incredibly clever pop classicists who can craft bespoke masterpieces out of threads pulled from old Beatles and Kinks records. On “Circular Sounds,” Stoltz’s brand new album, (his fourth) you could easily see him fitting into the Elephant Six Collective, with “Everything Begins” bearing resemblance to something by Beulah, and more than a few other songs invoking the late great Olivia Tremor Control.  But I mean this as the highest compliment: Stoltz is the pop Wes Anderson.  No, not for anything having to do with preciousness, but because of the way he conjures the greatest small moments from the exceedingly weird 1970s.  There’s a Spirit/Randy California-ish ring to the guitar, but Ray Davies and the Kinks — heroes of Wes Anderson —  would seem to be the songwriting model invoked most often.  Here is a completely realized vision: power pop (lower case ‘p’s) based on beautiful songwriting so removed from current trends and sensibilities that if you told me this was some great lost record from 1973, I’d fall for it completely.  Just as I fell for “Circular Sounds.”  Doubt me? Go to the iTunes store and listen to “When You Forget.”  If you can resist, you’re probably the type that can eat one potato chip.

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