Listen Closer: Joe Henry; Peter Gabriel & Elbow; The Secret Sisters; Hiss Golden Messenger; Belle & Sebastian; Beck Covers Arcade Fire

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For my money, the most exciting title on the summer music calendar is Joe Henry’s new album Invisible Hour, which rivals his finest records. (Two of my favorite connoisseurs, Andy Whitman and Josh Hurst, have already declared it the album of the year, and maybe the album of the decade.)

Here’s a Soundcloud link to the song “Lead Me On,” which features Lisa Hannigan.

Does anybody write about the mystery of music more beautifully than Joe Henry? Here’s an excerpt from his notes about the album at his website:

The songs lean into and out of folk tradition as pieces of writing, perhaps, and evidence my earliest loyalties; yet while that offered all of us a tonal bedrock, and suggested the steely rumble of acoustic instrumentation to be an appropriate point of demarcation, it also enforced mystery as a historic fact; and as such, every musician on the date sang and played less to earthly parameters and more to ghostly communion with discovery, with love in all its forms.

You will read in the album’s accompanying liner notes my suggestion that these are all, perhaps, “songs about marriage;” but I should hasten to add that that is a personal observance, and recognized much after the fact. That thread — of commitment, surrender, and hair-raising mystical alignment — does indeed snake through the whole in ways both overt and peripheral, literal and metaphoric. But though marriage as a notion moves like significant weather through its rooms, it is really the redemptive power of love in the face of fear upon which this house is built. Love is the story; and the characters paw lustfully after it – formal pairings notwithstanding.

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Elbow‘s new album The Take Off and Landing of Everything is the kind of rich music that I wish bands like U2 and Coldplay might produce if they weren’t so busy trying to make hits. It doesn’t feel like it’s striving for radio play or some kind of cutting-edge wow; it feels like something substantial and nourishing. This is the most radio-friendly song on the record.

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Speaking of Elbow, check out their version of “Mercy Street” and marvel at Guy Garvey’s vocal resemblance to Peter Gabriel.

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And here’s Gabriel’s covering Elbow’s song “Mirrorball.”

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The Secret Sisters have a new sound that suspiciously resembles the records of T-Bone Burnett. There’s a reason for that.

Here’s a review of Put Your Needle Down by AllMusic’s Steve Leggett:

…this second Burnett-produced album updates the sound a decade or so into a mesh of folky honky tonk, garage rock, and girl group ballads, with a touch of Daniel Lanois-like swampy noodling on a few tracks, making Put Your Needle Down sound a bit like Emmylou Harris’ Lanois-produced Wrecking Ball as sung by the Everly Brothers’ little sisters while fronting the Cowboy Junkies. That may sound like a mess, but it isn’t, and this album grows on you as it progresses, with the sisters’ assured singing (and songwriting — they co-wrote many of the songs here) making everything cohere and shine. At the center of things is an old Bob Dylan song called “Dirty Lie,” previously only heard as an unfinished Dylan demo. Given permission by Dylan to finish the song, it emerges here as a striking “St. James Infirmary”-like jewel with a dark, murky jazz-blues feel.

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I’m enjoying a new record by M. C. Taylor, who operates under the moniker Hiss Golden Messenger. It has an intimacy and an immediacy that reminds me of the Michelle Shocked Campfire Tapes—just a guy and his guitar, performing quietly, with a devotional spirit, as if playing for the sake of solace while the world suffers outside.

Bad Debt was actually recorded in 2010, but it wasn’t released then. Hiss Golden Messenger went on to release to full-band albums, including some of these songs: Poor Moon (2011) and Haw (2013).

This review by Mike Mariani at Slant kindled my curiosity:

Aside from the album’s asceticism, it’s those Biblical, eternally human themes of suffering and transfiguration that make the songs incomparable and anachronistic. Without even a whiff of contrivance or dogma, Taylor manages to stage his own reenactment of the fall, the desolate road to redemption, and the final reconciliation with God. It’s the unmistakable voice of that American archetype, the estranged believer, lonesome and full-hearted with something that’s not quite faith, but isn’t far off.

Here’s another strong review by the great Thom Jurek at AllMusic.

I find these songs following me around. Here’s the title track from Bad Debt:

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On a brighter note, here’s something I never imagined I’d hear: Belle and Sebastian covering Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

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And here’s Beck building up to “Blue Moon” with a few lines of Arcade Fire’s “Rebellion (Lies)”:

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Pitchfork has video for Beck’s full first set at Coachella.

 

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