Review: Tribute to 2 by Jim James

Tribute to 2 by Jim JamesAt its best, a cover record should pique your interest this way: how can [artist] apply [pronoun] style into another’s songs? Perhaps that’s why I don’t like those acoustic compilations – they’re templated to sound a particular way, the supposed thrill going along the lines of “how will they do that to [loud pop artist]?” It’s why I’m reviewing Jim James’ Tribute to 2. If anything, his voice should lend some extra… something to songs. It’s what defined his work with My Morning Jacket, and his solo stuff, too. This is his second cover album, but unlike last time, where he focused solely on George Harrison, he’s doing a lot of acts here, from Elvis to the Beach Boys, giving the album a chance to go beyond being, well, a tribute. From the opening of “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times” you wonder if he’s chosen the songs as a reaction to all that’s going on (considering the political sheen of his last solo record, Eternally Even). There’s a curiosity to the covers, a grappling with the new reality – perhaps it’s Jim’s similarly curiosity-tinged voice, that coo leaving a whiff of “what’s this?” to anything. If only for that, it’s enchanting. Otherwise it’s nice to hear quite different spins on some of the tracks. [NB]3/5

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Review: How to Solve Our Human Problems, Part 1 by Belle and Sebastian

How to Solve Our Human Problems, Part 1 by Belle and SebastianHow to Solve Our Human Problems is designed to be three EPs, and that benefits Belle and Sebastian for a few reasons: it relieves them of the need to compile enough suitable material for a full record, and it keeps their profile relatively up there as the EPs trickle out. I’ve been hearing “We Were Beautiful” for a few months now, so it’s working, somehow. Oh, and one more benefit: you don’t need to have a theme. The first of their new EPs is a bit scattershot, literally: starts low, swings up, swings back down, and then back up again. But then you’re compelled to not see this as a concept but as a collection of tracks put together, so outside the gear changes you get used to how the sublime “Sweet Dew Lee” leads to the shiny “We Were Beautiful”, then to the easy country-fied “Fickle Season”, then to the even shinier “The Girl Doesn’t Get It” – the dance floor influences from their last record have not quite left them. But the whole thing unexpectedly concludes with the final track: “Everything is Now” hypnotically drills down a point, and then subverts it at the last possible moment. Is that the thesis statement I have just decided not to look for because of the format alone? Perhaps. [NB]3/5

“You have me so frustrated waiting for your love.”

“Flipside” by the Keymakers | Last item on the inbox. For the year! I mean, I have to close the inbox at some point, especially since next week is our last week (for the year, for now). We’ve written about the Keymakers a couple of months back: brothers Rome Alexander and Rederic have impressed us with an old-school sound that doesn’t press on it too much. This one also has that vibe, but it’s considerably different from “Good For You”, in that it builds into some sort of 90s groove, but with some modern whistles on nonetheless. The brothers are doing good things – consider that I’m not really into R&B – and I’m looking forward to what they do next. [NB] (Have things I should hear? Drop me a line here.)

“I still got my eyes on the prize.”

“Cell Dilution” by Gus Harrower | This song was sitting on my inbox for a couple of weeks, which triggered my “I have to catch up with everything” mode. Here’s how it goes. I click on the link, and read a bit about the act, all while the song plays. There’s piano. This seems straightforward. And then the keys go a bit upbeat – that upswing, that uptick. Hey. It settles down for a while, but then it kicks up again: drums, a bit of guitar. Do I say this gives me a bit of Jack Garratt feel? Sure, it’s different – Gus Harrower does not have a husky voice, but there’s that uplifting quality that’s common between the two. Only, without the husky voice, he does not sound like he’s trying to hard to be world-weary (not that I’m saying Jack is; it’s just a trope in such songs). I find my feet tapping. This guy is from Edinburgh. That place doesn’t get much credit musically. I decide I’m liking this. A new EP drops next year, perhaps. The press release did say winter. [NB] (Have things I should hear? Drop me a line here.)

“Don’t think you knew you were in this song.”

“Five Years” by David Bowie | Even I get sidetracked these days. I was supposed to write about Saturday – my fifth year with my hunny. I was supposed to write about APink’s “Five”, complete with anecdote about how me thinking of buying Pink Up makes me, in her joking words, “yuck yuck”. But then that moment has passed, and a part of me wants to keep this milestone relatively quiet online. As for this, I was thinking of other songs about “five years” (well, that was a really cursory look) and stumbled upon this, the opener to Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust record, and remembered how, in those five years, I have actually gotten… worse, so to speak. Without her by my side, I would not have made it through these five years. [NB]