I am trying to land a position writing music reviews for the Philadelphia Independent – a new $.50 paper that has only released two issues so far. Their main page essays come off more like revised and extended blog entries, but their music section is brief and to the point. My challenge (from the editor)? Review two new records that aren’t my typical fare in a constrictive 100 words or less. My (personal) editors? Only the best: Martha, Andy, Jill, Maggie, and Liz. The results?
Wilco – Yankee Foxtrot Hotel
Wilco is ambiguously labeled as an Alt-Country band, but more than anything else their newest release is a Rock record. Nearly every song is loaded with eclectic multi-instrumental riffing and studio buzz, but never enough to obscure the tunes at their root. The disc’s relatively vague lyrics are surprisingly introspective despite giving the sense of magnetic poetry assemblage. The album seamlessly combines sound collage techniques with catchy pop songs – sometimes within a single track. Borrowing as much from rock classics as from country standards, Wilco’s tunefully intricate acoustic sensibility is ultimately impressive and effective.
Standout Tracks: I’m The Man Who Loves You, I am Trying To Break Your Heart
Lauryn Hill – Unplugged 2.0
Unplugged is an unusual record, featuring 13 new songs performed solo rather than a glossy hit parade. The stripped down medium allows for an undiluted delivery of this hip-hop dissertation, complete with both rambling and eloquent spoken interludes. Lauryn plays uncomplicated acoustic guitar, but her MC abilities prove to be difficult to perform while strumming along. Though her playing occasionally suffers, her superb vocals are still silky and soulful. A few cuts are too long or simply lack a hook, but the strongest songs stand stronger alone than they would on a produced studio album. Overall Hill has scored one for her talent and musicianship – if not for her ability to produce hip grooves.
Standout tracks: Just Like Water, I Find It Hard To Say
There’s also an erstwhile Sheryl Crow review on my hard drive that i practically had rewritten for me by my first three review reviewers, but that had no bearing on whether i get the job or not. So, seeing as my typical reviews are more in the realm of 1,000 to 3,500 words, i’m tempted to ask you how i did. However, as much as i’d love to see your comments, i cringe at the thought of editing either of these any more – especially considering the fact that they are definitely not the ready-for-print versions should i get chosen to review for the next issue.
Argh, they’re still cutting down trees.