Posts Tagged ‘Owls’

I thought I’d post this little treat up for fans of the sublime, rich aesthetically attuned Joan of Arc.  Here is the video for a song off their newest album, He’s Got the Whole This Land is Your Land in His Hands.  It’s entitled, “Never Wintersbone You”  Hope you dig it.

PS -it’s got something to do with Phil Collins and his big hit, “In the Air Tonight” from his debut solo LP, Face Value.  That album was made right at the time Collins was going through a particularly nasty divorce.  I have and you too have probably heard that rumor that went around, mostly in the 80s & into the 90s that describes the story of this song & how Phil had set the “perpetrator” (?) up by sending a ticket for the front row, center so he could see him and expose him for some grave misdeed from years past.  Now, I don’t know if that’s true or to what extent it has validity, but, well, who knows?  Anyway, Tim & Melina are taking it to that end, it seems, in this tune.  OK?  Well, just listen & watch for yourself! Enjoy! and See you Really Soon! –KM.

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Joan of Arc

He’s Got the Whole This Land is Your Land in His Hands

Joyful Noise Records, 2017Joan of Arc He's Got... cover

Review by Kent Manthie                                                 

After one of the most depressing and awful years in modern memory (2016), 2017 is shaping up to be a better one (so far, anyway). The one good thing that has happened so far this year is the new album from Joan of Arc, He’s Got the Whole This Land is Your Land in His Hands, their first since 2013’s Testimonium Songs, which was a soundtrack of sorts to the dance troupe, Every Door a Window and their dance piece, Testimonium, which was a re-creation, of sorts, of the trial of some labor leaders in the late 19th century.  That album, basically an EP, with just six songs on it, came on the heels of 2012’s wonderful Life Like, on which the worked again with legendary Chicagoan Steve Albini.

He’s Got… is not as stripped down as their last two were. This time they’ve brought Jeremy Boyle back, and Melina Ausikaitis too. The album starts out with a great opener: “Smooshed That Cocoon”, something that could only come from the wonderfully creative mind of Tim Kinsella. By the time we get to the middle part of the album, it goes into a kind of laid back, but “busy” mosaic of sonic gravitas. “Never Wintersbone You” talks about Phil Collins and his first solo hit, “In the Air Tonight”, from his first solo LP, Face Value, which was written and recorded around the time he was going through a particularly nasty divorce, which, ironically, provided some of the impetus of Face Value. Anyway, it’s hard to really know what they’re singing about unless one knows the context. Also, the last two cuts on the album, “F is For Fake” and “Ta-ta Terrordome” are great and show that JOA still have ‘it’.

As soon as I read that Joan of Arc had a new album out, I immediately went to work and, once I had it, I listened to it all the way through, of course, and was just blown away by its brave, forward-looking, fearless intensity. Every song really shines on this and I can’t think of anything I’d change about it. Oh, I suppose, if I were, say, Robert Christgau, I’d look and look until I found something negative about it that I could use to sound oh-so above it all, etc. but I’m not Christgau. I don’t live in that same world. Don’t wait around for some single to show up, get yourself the whole album. It’s a beautiful piece of music as a whole; it all fits together nicely. -KM.

Victor Villarreal

Sleep Talk

Joyful Noise Recordings, 2015

Review by Kent Manthie

The ever-busy Victor Villarreal has just put out another solo work, Sleep Talk. It’s another showcase of his own, where he can shine by himself instead of being one part of a quartet or trio. The last solo album we heard from Villarreal was Invisible Cinema also a Joyful Noise Recordings release.

Victor was present at the “creation”, so to speak: Cap’n Jazz were one of the new, the band from Chicago who, in the 1990s popped up in indie circles and made a big splash with their fuzzy charm. Victor played guitar in CJ during its relatively brief lifetime, the band which also introduced the public-at-large to the larger-than-life Tim Kinsella, his brother (aka Owen), Mike, Davey von Bohlen (who would, after Cap’n Jazz, go on to form The Promise Ring) and Sam Zurick rounded out the quartet. Their first and only real studio album, which came out in 1994 has the insanely long title,Burritos, Inspiration Point, Fork Balloon Sports, Cards in the Spokes, Automatic Biographies, Kites, Kung Fu, Trophies, Banana Peels We’ve Slipped On and Egg Shells We’ve Tippy Toed Over.

Anyway, it’s been a long, long (relatively, anyway) time since Victor Villarreal played guitar in the band which started it all (Cap’n Jazz) in a lot of ways, not only Joan of Arc and the various other Tim Kinsella-related side projects (Friend/Enemy, Make Believe and Owls, an awesome combo in which Victor played guitar, both on their 2001 eponymous debut as well as the long-awaited follow-up (Two), that came out last March (2014) and is spectacular; an absolute delight that one keeps listening to, over and over again. So, what I’m getting at, in maybe a roundabout way, is that Victor Villarreal is a really binding force in the bands he’s played in, whether it be the last two Joan of Arc albums: 2013’s Testimonium Songs, and also on the fabulous Life Like, recorded by the legendary Steve Albini (Steve hates the whole idea of “producing” -that is, a band should produce their albums. They made the music, they know how it’s supposed to sound.

Sorry, OK, back to Sleep Talk. This is a great example of Victor being Victor and not one part of what would eventually become a synergistic whole. In other words, on Sleep Talk he is strictly Victor Villarreal, great guitar player.

Sleep Talk begins with “Whoever Everyone Might Be”, a hauntingly mellow opener which sort of dusts off shutters covering a Man Ray interior inside. He is from the start, just killing one kindly on the guitar. He, so deftly maneuvers the fretboard that it’s almost like the difference between, say, witnessing a thunderstorm: you know, you’ll see the light the lightning creates, instantaneously, but the thunder, that accompanies the lightning because of that difference between the (nearly) instantaneously showing light from the bolt vs. that jet airliner-strength POW of the thunderclap – it’s the infinite invariable differentiation between the speed of light and the much, much slower speed of sound. Anyway, my analogy is getting away from me here: my point was that, you can be listening to, say, “My Halucidaydream” and letting your mind wander over the soundscapes, but, it isn’t (unless you are specifically on alert for it) hitting you right at the moment, it’ll eventually dawn on you that -hey this guy is really cooking on the guitar over there, so then, suddenly your attention becomes rapt to the crazy fingers of Victor’s – one who shows a quiet dexterity but also a quick guitar wit, if you will. A snaky, but tender, finger-picking-good, at times, but others, “Wade and Beware”, for example, which have a couple of chords which set a mood and then are shadowed by ringlets of the same key, circle around and will come back to the main groove now and again, from which to bring it onto a slightly different path.

Whether it’s the daydreaming set inside “Karoshi” or the album’s longest tune, the 7:02 “A Mad Dad Dash”, which has a title that sounds like it might be a more frenetic type of song, but really isn’t; rather it’s a slowed-down, reflective, somber, but not a dower, not too still – the ever-moving guitar-playing makes sure of that.

Basically, what we have in Sleep Talk is another chance for Victor to show off his chops as a solo artist and though we know he is a terrific guitarist, as is evidenced in his playing on the two Owls albums, over the past couple years in the most recent line-up of Joan of Arc, which, when I saw them live, in San Diego, at the Casbah, in May, 2012, was a quartet, with Tim on vocals/guitar; Bobby Burg on bass, Theo Katsaouris on drums and, last but certainly not least, Victor, who would now and then trade off with Tim for lead guitar duties, Victor really was the more dominant guitarist. And if you think that just listening to him play on Sleep Talk, it makes the guitar playing sound easy, due to the laid-back, almost effortless vibe emitted from the songs, well on stage, Villarreal does a live impression of “making it look easy”, by his mellow, unpretentious, almost shy presence, but which is belied by his wicked fierce chops that, if you’re up close enough to the stage, you can see his fingers, which seem to almost take on a life of their own, apart from his calm, cool persona, as they race up and down the fretboard, and give life to the songs the band is playing. Such is the dual persona of Victor Villarreal: nice guy, easygoing, mellow, while having this fiery intensity through which h e can really kick some ass, but without the “strut-my-stuff” antics; antics which, by now, would seem either like self-parody or insincere and Victor’s nothing, if not sincere.

Anyway, I hope Sleep Talk garner the attention it deserves. It would show once and for all that Vic’s not just a pretty face in a rock band, but a talented force to be reckoned with in his solo endeavors. -KM.victor-villarreal-sleep-talk-1024x1024

Hi there.

This is the second annual “Best of…” year-end, wrap-up, wherein I pick what I felt were, indeed, the best releases of 2014 – at least the best that I’ve heard.  I’m sure I may have missed out on something, by someone: I didn’t get a chance to hear EVERYTHING that was released over the past year.  What this list is reflecting is the various albums which I’ve reviewed here, at Independent Review.

I’m not much into ranking things or countdowns; “top ten” lists, etc.  The following is just a breakdown of the some of the most memorable albums.

And – as I am not “counting down” albums here, whatever lands in the number one spot, isn’t necessarily the all-around “Best Release of the Year”.  I’m just going to go in order from the beginning of the year up through the end.  Also – if you’re curious about a particular album, do a search for it and read the review for it.

Hope you will pick out at least a couple examples here and give them a listen to, if not outright buying a copy.  Many Thanks and a Happy New Year to all!  -KM.

* According to Independent Review

“Best of 2014” (In chronological order)

1.  Owls:  Two

2.  Hew Time (Self-titled)

3.  Xiu Xiu:  Angel Guts: Red Classroom

4.  Electric Bird Noise:  Kind of Black

5.  These Curious Thoughts:  Inventing Dr. Sutherland & His Traveling Hospital

6.  Denial of Service:  Totentanz (Official Bootleg)

7.  Sea Rocket Jasmine: The Window

8.  Lee Negin:  The Cheeze Chronicles:  Volume V

9.  Stagnant Pools:  Geist

10.  Owen:  Other People’s Songs

Well, there you are – that is my list.  And, since this is mostly a chronological list, I thought it was kind of interesting that Owls’ album, Two, turned out to be the first one on the list – because to be honest, I REALLY love that album.  I’ve been listening to Two in the car, at home, and wherever else I am, listening to music.  For more information on Two – you can read the review (if you want to find it fast, then click on “March, 2014” and you’ll get to it almost right away, since that’s when it came out & that’s when I reviewed it).  You can go to https://www.polyvinylrecords.com and, if it’s not up front, do a search for it; Two can also be purchased at Polyvinyl’s website, along with all their other releases: there are CDs for sale as well as the occasional 7″ vinyl, LP vinyl, special edition colored vinyl and you can also just pick up an MP3 version of a particular album -which won’t cost you any shipping, since you are getting it via cyberspace, with no packaging, etc. just the music and a copy of the cover so you can create your own CD cover, if you decide to burn it to a CD-R.  And then, there’s the merchandise:  plenty of T-shirts, hats, stickers, posters, et cetera.  With new titles coming out all the time.

OK, then.  Again, wishing you a Happy New Year! – Here’s hoping that 2015 is going to be as good, if not better, than 2014!  One thing that’s coming out in a couple of months is a new of Montreal album, so look for that one to be reviewed.  Their last full-length was pretty good (Lousy With Sylvanbriar) – so, I have high hopes for this new one too, Aureate Gloom, I think it’s supposed to be a little bit stripped down, a tad rawer.  We’ll see…

-KM