Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit
February 9, 2014
St. Louis, MO
Isbell and wife, Amanda Shires, performing “Mutineer”
This review is coming in a little late for my tastes, but no one ever said “Timeliness is next to Godliness”. The good news is I capped off my beer consumption at 3-4, so my mind is sparkly clear even three weeks later. So at long last, here is my written account of Jason Isbell live.
Two albums quickly come to mind as comparison points for Beck’s first studio album in 6 years: Beck’s previous departure into folk, 2002’s Sea Change, and the ultra-specific and ultra-personal Benji from Sun Kil Moon. Morning Phase in many ways acts as the sequel to Sea Change, with Beck shedding his chameleon coat for a straightforward and earnest singer/songwriter record. Sea Change happened following a breakup, and while it was beautiful at points, the overall tone of the record was reflective and sober. On Morning Phase, is similarly beautiful, but takes more of a turn towards the euphoric than the brooding, catching a glimpse of the beauty of life. Benji acts as the antithesis in many ways Morning Phase. Where Benji is hyper-specific and includes deeply personal accounts of Mark Kozelek’s experiences with death, Morning Phase is a very simplified and impressionistic look at life, allowing the viewer to read their own experiences into the words. They also work as a comparison since they are the two best records so far in 2014, masterful at the disparate approaches they take.
A Band Called Death
Rock history is filled with tragedy: ugly band breakups, festival disasters, and deaths at 27. So when you actually get a documentary about a band called “death”, one might expect more of the same tragedy. And while there is some tragedy in this story about three religious Detroit brothers playing punk music in 1974 before punk was punk who somehow went completely unheard, the heart of the story is absolutely life-affirming: celebrating family, rock ‘n’ roll, and a firm belief that death doesn’t have the last say.
February 11th, 2014
Who knew Twitter was good for anything beside trolls and hashtags? As toxic as social media is sometimes, it paid off for me Tuesday when I won two free tickets to Man Man in a random Chicago suburb, Palatine, courtesy of Popstache (who I have written for in the past). Man Man is a Philadelphia foursome influenced by rock’s earliest experimenters:Tom Waits, Captain Beefheart, and Frank Zappa, but crossed with a modern indie rock flair. The band is centered around eccentric lead man Honus Honus, who looks like Attila the Hun and sounds like Tom Waits. I went with fellow LxLer Todd and we were both blown away by Man Man’s live show: one of the most dynamic and versatile hour long sets I have seen in a while.
Sun Kil Moon
Last week I wrote about a seasoned folk singer and the release of probably his best album to date, and this week I take on another folk journeyman in Mark Kozelek who is grabbing the critical ear with Sun Kil Moon’s Benji. The Ohio-born songwriter first arrived on the scene in 1992 as the distinctive voice behind Red House Painters, a band that established Kozelek’s style of beautifully somber and contemplative songs all played sweetly and delicately on acoustic guitar. Kozelek continued into the 21st century with a new outfit in Sun Kil Moon, keeping many of the characteristics of Red House Painter with a little darker tint. Kozelek has also released a string of solo records since 2000, including last year’s solid Mark Kozelek & Desertshore. Now comes Benji, arguably Kozelek’s most deeply personal and emotionally fragile record, describing in great detail the lives and deaths of numerous people, both near and far to Kozelek’s life.