Saturday, October 27, 2007

Alexi Murdoch - Time Without Consequence

Imagine for a second, listening to a reincarnated version of Nick Drake (Pink Moon era) updated for the 21st century. Granted, you have to know who Nick Drake is to begin with, but even still, it should raise interest from any self-respecting music lover. Alexi Murdoch is the embodiment of that indie folk artist. The London-born, but Scottish-bred Murdoch moved to Los Angeles and almost immediately had a prodigious meeting with trend-setter Nic Harcourt on his Morning Becomes Eclectic at KCRW. That occurred in 2003, and soon after that major labels and savvy listeners were taking notice, with executives lining up at his door to sign him to a record deal. When the right deal failed to materialize Murdoch continued to tour in support of his EP Four Songs. Still without an agreeable deal he took it upon himself and recorded his debut full-length Time Without Consequence on his own. It should be noted that Murdoch was not waiting for a huge monetary deal. Supposedly he was (and still is) looking for one that is true to his artistic vision, and allows him to compose unshackled by major label requirements of producing hits rather than whatever he sees fit.

The fact that I didn't find Time Without Consequence (2006) until recently makes me feel like I'm late to a secret show at a small venue. I'm standing at the back of the room, and wishing I had been there from the beginning so I could be sitting in the front row. Either way, I'm there but can't necessarily brag about having a great view. On the other hand, Alexi Murdoch won't stay much of a secret for long. His most popular song "Orange Sky" (below) has been featured on The O.C., House, Prison Break, Ugly Betty, and most recently Dirty Sexy Money. Murdoch's music is typified by his powerfully restrained and halting voice, in addition to his understated beautiful guitar picking. The album is absolutely beautiful from beginning to end and really shows an artist seemingly on the brink of becoming a household name. His lyrics are heartfelt without being contrived. The arrangements are simple boarding on sparse. Alexi Murdoch will surely find a home at a label sometime soon, and he most surely has his pick of the litter. One can only hope that his artistic integrity is allowed to continue to blossom and develop.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Minus the Bear - Planet of Ice

Hailing from Seattle, Washington Minus the Bear are known for some quirky song titles. But before they are cast off as a novelty, one should consider their polished, smartly arranged songs with a closer listen. Finger-tapped guitar riffs mixed with catchy melodies and unexpected time changes are sure to keep things interesting and entertaining for most fans.

While they have released a few EPs and a debut LP (Menos el Oso, 2005) the release of Planet of Ice is really their grand entrance to the indie music scene. Up until this point the band has been circling the local wagons and creating a fanbase in the pacific northwest. Planet of Ice is a solid effort from a band that is still learning and growing. While not at their peak yet, you can see bursts of special ideas coming through on many songs. Unfortunately, this lack of cohesion is a blessing and curse on the album. When listening through, they sound like one band here or another band there without trying to hard. The blend of electronics, synths, guitar riffs, and swooning vocals create quite a landscape for the album. On the other hand, each of these reminders detracts from an identity they're trying to construct for themselves. Once they capture the exact direction and vibe they want to have consistently, they could really break through. If not, Minus the Bear will probably continuing making listenable albums, but nothing to be remembered for more than a few years. But, while they are rising, this album will give a great sense of what they are capable of achieving.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

When the lights go out in the city...

It is necessary to note today in the annals of internet music history along side Napster 2000. Whether you were a member, user, et al. OiNK is no more. Various bits of news coverage from around the Net.

Mudd Up!
BBC News
The Northern Echo (UK)
more news & opinions...
Seattle Times