the geography of light

My review of Carrie Newcomer’s The Geography of Light has been published on Blogcritics. The album won’t be out for another week and a half, so make sure you save your lunch money between now and then. It’s worth it.

With the first pull of the bow across a violin strings and the pluck of an acoustic guitar, I knew immediately that The Geography of Light was going to be everything that I love about Carrie Newcomer’s music. Warm, inviting, and as comfortable as an old pair of jeans.

reviews update

It’s been a while since I posted an update here of what I’ve been writing over at Blogcritics.org. Between moving and the holidays, I’ve fallen far behind on many things, not to mention writing (or even writing about writing, as the case may be). Here are the handful of recent reviews:

  • Guinness – The 250-Year Quest for the Perfect Pint by Bill Yenne

    Yenne has written an engaging book that is accessible even to the pedestrian beer drinker. His research is thorough, and the bibliography at the end of the book has a few titles that caught my eye as potential future reads. [more]

  • Carole King – Welcome To My Living Room

    The film quality and editing rides the line between a PBS TV concert and a big-screen hyper-reality, with long cuts and minimal camera movement. In the end, it has more of an “I was at a concert” feel than the audio recording from a different show, mainly because of the aforementioned between song banter that was left in the video and removed from the CD. [more]

  • Leiana – No Going Back

    The skatepunk sound found on Leiana’s second full-length, No Going Back, feels as comfortable to me as an old pair of jeans, and I think most of that has to do with the distorted crunch of Chuck Treece’s guitar riffs and the straight-ahead drumming. It’s a little bit retro, while remaining modern and fresh. [more]

  • Macally BTCUP for iPod

    Over the years, I have purchased a variety of FM transmitters in the hopes that they will transfer the sound from my digital devices to my car stereo better than cassette adapters. In general, I have not spent more than $30-40 on these devices, and in the end, I was unsatisfied with them. Recently, I was given the opportunity to test Macally’s BTCUP for iPod, and I was suitably impressed with the device. [more]

blogworld and more reviews

I have to agree with Philip: I hate Las Vegas.

The BlogWorld Expo in Las Vegas was tons of fun. My liver is fine, but my heart is a little sad for having to say goodbye to my fellow Blogcritics editors until next time. It was wonderful to meet everyone and to get a chance to just be with each other. It’s amazing how well such a diverse group of people can get along.

We definitely had one of the best booths there, thanks in part to the great swag, but also because of who was staffing it. Several people commented that we were more warm and friendly than the folks at other booths, and Pete from the Planetary Group kept coming back just to hang out because he enjoyed being with us. I think we will have quite a few new writers joining soon, particularly now that they know we do critical reviews of all sorts of stuff, not just blogs.

The panel I was on was fun and informative, and I think in the end, beneficial to us because it helped us define what makes for a good review for a variety of styles and formats. I wish we could have had a larger audience, but all things considered, we did pretty well. I understand we had good representation on several other panels, and there were several folks who stopped by the booth after hearing one of our Politics section editors speak on a political panel.

The only down side to the whole event was the location. I’d never been to Las Vegas before (besides the 30min or so I spent in the airport on a layover one time), so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Now that I know, I’m fairly certain that the only thing that would get me to go back would be my Blogcritics pals or some other conference.

Anyway. Here are some reviews I’ve written recently for BC Magazine:

Wishing ChairFolk and Roll: Live in Austin [full review]

[This album] has a little bit of something for everyone. From newer arrangements of old favorites to brand new songs, the album straddles the line between being a best-of compilation and something fresh and different.

The Best of the Colbert Report [full review]

This collection is sure to please fans, although some will be disappointed that even with nearly three hours of content, a few of their favorite segments will have been left out of the collection. For viewers who have not yet caught on to the show, this collection is a good introduction; however, I recommend watching it only a little at a time in order to build up a tolerance.

Jim Bianco / Jenny Owen Youngs / Sean Hayes – High Dive – Seattle, WA – 11/12/2007 [full review]

Prior to the concert, I had not listened to any of the acts, and had only a passing familiarity with their names. Probably not the best example of research, but I went with an open mind and low expectations. In some cases, those expectations were exceeded far beyond my imagination, and in others, not so much.

more music!

reviews of Elisa Peimer and Trio Mediaeval

In between all the moving tasks — Have I mentioned yet that I’m moving to Virginia? No? Well, I am. In December. More on that later. — I’ve found time to write a couple more music reviews. I currently have a DVD review and a book review that are nearly ready to go, followed by a product review, but I’m not sure if I’ll finish all of them before I leave for the Blog World Expo on Wednesday.

Elisa PeimerPull of the Moon [full review]

The album as a whole has a 1980s ballad rock feel to it. The production is definitely modern and rich enough in depth to stand up to the headphone test. It’s the arrangements that seem to be fixed in time with straight-forward percussion and lead electric guitar flourishes, and the standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus song structure.

Trio MediaevalFolk Songs [full review]

Until I listened to this album, I had not actively sought out Norwegian music, folk or otherwise. However, periodically a musical phrase would jump out as vaguely familiar. Often I found myself thinking of the collection of Anonymous 4 albums on my CD shelves.

In case you were wondering, I’m totally addicted to the Trio Mediaeval CD. I’ve had to force myself to listen to other things.

music for your ears

Been reviewing some more music lately. Here are three very different albums.

Been reviewing some more music lately. Here are three very different albums:

Care Bears on Fire – I Stole Your Animal [full review]

One might wonder how a twelve year old would have enough life experience to write songs that would appeal to the masses. Lead vocals and guitar are performed by Sophie, who happens to also be the band’s core songwriter. She touches on topics that range from junior high relationships (“5 Minute Boyfriend”) to the burden of depression (“Shadow Girl”) with as much lyrical skill as most anyone at least twice her age would do.

Missy Higgins – On A Clear Night [full review]

The production on On A Clear Night is subtle and highlights Higgins’ voice without making it too obvious that it has done so. It’s a characteristic that is common for lyrically-focused music, and in the flood of flashy unsubstantial pop tunes that seems to never stop, it’s refreshing to have something that grabs the listener and demands that attention be paid to the message. Clearly I am not the only music fan that feels this way, since Higgins’ fall tour in the US sold out quickly.

Pash – The Best Gun [full review]

The first thing that stands out, aside from Munoz's clear vocals, is the constant, driving, wall of sound pouring out from the instrumentation. Throughout nearly every song, the drums, bass, and guitar never seem to stop, constantly pouring out beats and sound. It's varied enough to stay interesting, but after a while it becomes exhausting. The ears hardly have a moment's rest, aside from the short breaks as the CD (or MP3) player moves from one track to the next, although thankfully the intensity lessens in the last few tracks.

crazy busy – an update

Read some stuff, reviewed some stuff, and I’m still working until late at night.

I’ve been swamped at work and at play, leaving little time for blogging. For anyone who is keeping score, I read two more books towards my goal of 50 this year, thus bringing me up to 22 total. Those two were Nemesis and Ordeal By Innocence, both by Agatha Christie. I re-read them before watching the new film adaptations of them. My review will be published on Blogcritics this week.

Speaking of which, I had two more music reviews published. Sweet Honey in the Rock’s Experience…101, which was released last week, and Amy Grant’s Greatest Hits, which was released today. I have been fans of the music of both for many years, so it was a nice change to review something… familiar.

The insanity will continue. I have tons of committee and seasonal work in my day job to keep me busy for quite a while, and my Blogcritics work is increasingly consuming even more time in the evenings. There’s still enough of it that I enjoy to keep the balance, but I fear that it may one day tip and something will have to go.

hangin’ with the hipsters

Indie rock concert pleases the large crowd in Seattle.

My review of the Rilo Kiley show in Seattle last Saturday has been published on Blogcritics.org. I had an extra ticket from the publicist, but I could not find anyone to go with me. I even tried trading it for a place to crash afterwards via CouchSurfing.com, but no dice. So, I ended up having to do the two hour drive home alone, since I didn’t have the cash for a motel room (even the Motel 6 are $50+ per night). This meant leaving the concert at midnight when I was starting to worry I’d fall asleep on the road.

My seat afforded me a relatively head-free sightline to the stage, as well as a good vantage point for people-watching. Most of the audience members were in their 20s, with a small minority of older folks. I suspect that the start time had an effect on the demographic more so than the music genre.

By the time I got to Seattle, I had decided to give my extra ticket to someone who wasn’t able to get one before the show sold out. Unfortunately, I later discovered that the nice young man hanging out in front of the venue who needed “just one ticket” was actually a scalper. D’oh.

return to bangleonia

The band reunited in 2000 and recorded this live show. Now fans can finally get a copy of it.


by Shout Factory

My review of The Bangles’ Return to Bangleonia: Live in Concert has been published on Blogcritics.org. I had a lot of fun watching it last weekend. Everyone should get it, if just to listen to the commentary track.

As a child of the ’80s, my experiences with The Bangles’ music were very superficial. I remembered hits like “Walk Like an Egyptian” and “Manic Monday,” but I had no context for them in the broad swath of The Bangles’ repertoire. In fact, it was while watching the DVD that I first heard the term “paisley underground” to describe the 60’s influenced jangle pop garage band sound of the music scene the band was a part of in Los Angeles. Along with being entertaining, Return to Bangleonia: Live in Concert is also educational.


hope & glory

There’s something supremely satisfying about power rock ballads, and that’s how I feel after the last track ends — satisfied.


by Ann Wilson

My review of Ann Wilson’s album Hope & Glory has been published on Blogcritics.org. I’ve had the advance copy for about a month now, and I’ve been enjoying it very much. The funny thing is that all this time I’ve had the two Wilsons (Ann & Nancy) confused in my head, and I was thinking that this is Nancy’s solo album. I should have known better, since I kept musing over how much her vocals sound like Ann’s. D’oh.

The album is being released on Tuesday, September 11th, which is apropos considering how politicized the Al-Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have become. There are several albums of protest music being released on that day, and this is one of them. Wilson has drawn on some of her favorite songs of the past forty years and put together a collection that includes interpretations of classics from John Lennon and Neil Young. It’s not an overtly political album, but it does serve to highlight the relevance of these classic songs in the modern world. Wilson says, “I’ve been itching to make some sort of comment about our times, but I didn’t want to do it in a way that was really abrasive and just shouting for the sake of shouting.”


listen closely

This is an album that demands your full attention to be appropriately appreciated.


by Patty Griffin

My review of Patty Griffin’s new-ish album Children Running Through has been published on Blogcritics. I’ve had this album in my hands since slightly before it was released in February, but every time I sat down to write about it, something inside said, “Wait. Not yet.” So, I waited. Tonight, the words flowed out, so there you have it.

This is not an album to play in the background. This is an album that demands your full attention to be appropriately appreciated.