Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
Steamboat Springs "Real Emotional Trash"
Stephen Malkmus has held a special place in the heart of hipsters since Pavement records first started sputtering ironic, elusive lyrics almost two decades ago.
With the release of Malkmus' fourth solo album, "Real Emotional Trash," he might have endeared himself to a new fan base: psychedelic hippies.
On the album's title track, it wouldn't be hard to picture tie-dyed Phish fans noodling barefoot at a summer concert series to 10-minute jams.
Malkmus' writing never really made much sense, but fans listening to college rock stations in dorm rooms, circa 1994, nodded along anyway.
"Real Emotional Trash" takes the farcical writing to another level, but despite his critical acclaim and devoted fan base, Malkmus never seems to need to be taken seriously.
In the album's opening line, he writes, "Of all my stoned digressions / Some have mutated into the truth / Not a spoof."
It's a fine moment of clarity, but for the next hour, there's no telling what Malkmus' stoned digressions actually mean.
- Mike McCollum, 4 Points
Chatham County Line
North Carolina bluegrass quartet Chatham County Line is better at marrying the old and the new than just about any other band that includes a banjo.
On "IV," lead songwriter Dave Wilson puts together a set that catches the elaborate picking of old-time music, the melancholy of a country ballad, the conscious laboring of a great soul tune and the steady tilt of a rockabilly rager.
"Chip Of A Star" is an easy-moving opener, "Birmingham Jail" calls on 1960s political folk, "One More Minute" needs early 1990s alternative to survive, "Clear Blue Sky" belongs at a barn dance and "Thanks" is the strongest Beatles-esque album-closer that's come around in a long time.
It all makes "IV" a beautifully written, cohesive effort - one that is more folk than mountain, more American music than Americana.
Chatham County doesn't make an obvious effort to include every bit of the rich musical heritage of its home state, and it's a good thing. If you come from a place, and you let it happen, all the influences worth having will work their way in the music naturally.
That way, roots music isn't a throwback, and it isn't a novelty. It's just how your songs sound - organic, heartfelt and natural.
- Margaret Hair, 4 Points