Posted inNews & Politics

Brief Reviews

THE NYMPHOS OF ROCKY FLATS | Mario Acevedo | Rayo | Former infantryman Mario Acevedo manages to seamlessly blend several genres in his smooth, wryly funny debut novel. Nymphos starts off as a war thriller: enlisted grunt Felix Gomez is just trying to survive in Iraq when he mistakenly shoots a civilian girl who bleeds […]

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Margo Jefferson

Margo Jefferson’s On Michael Jackson (Pantheon) is partly a slim primer on the things that earned her subject that “wacko Jacko” tag: the dysfunctional family, the plastic surgery, the “Jesus juice.” But it’s also an honorable attempt to humanize Jackson, and if her arguments don’t always wash, Jefferson is for the most part convincingly empathetic […]

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Guided by Voices

Half Smiles of the Decomposed (Matador), apparently the final Guided by Voices album, contains further evidence of front man Robert Pollard’s recent conversion to production values, and the three-minute “Window of My World” is about as close as he’s ever come to writing an epic song suite. Otherwise Pollard’s going out like he came in: […]

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Steve Earle & the Dukes

As rush jobs stuffed with filler go, you could do a lot worse than Steve Earle’s The Revolution Starts Now (E-Squared/Artemis). Hurriedly packaged for pre-election-day release, the album exists mainly for the sake of two pissed-off roots-country anthems (the title track and “F the CC”) and one protest ballad (“Rich Man’s War”). Elsewhere, it bears […]

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The Treatment

Friday 15 ADEM Kieran Hebden and Adem Ilhan both started solo projects while their main gig, Fridge, was on hiatus: Hebden does field-recording sampladelia as Four Tet, and Ilhan writes intimate folk-pop that’s rich in instrumental detail. The recent Homesongs (Domino) was recorded mostly in his bedroom, but it’s no slapdash lo-fi affair–his warm acoustic […]

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Jolie Holland

The easygoing eclecticism of Jolie Holland’s much-praised 2003 debut, Catalpa, made it a shot in the arm to a folk scene that can always use one. It was seemingly the work of a talented young woman operating a four-track amid a pile of scratchy old vinyl–Billie Holiday albums, Nico albums, Smithsonian Folkways LPs, original Broadway […]

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Mike Watt & the Secondmen

Like other memoirs about serious illness, Mike Watt’s new The Secondman’s Middle Stand (Columbia) is at times disarming and painful: as song titles like “Puked to High Heaven” and “Pissbags and Tubing” indicate, the inspiration to be found here is not of the greeting-card variety. In early 2000, after five-plus weeks of misdiagnosed fever, Watt […]

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Ghost

During a quiet moment on Ghost’s new album, Hypnotic Underworld (Drag City), you can clearly hear the sound of pages turning. It’s easy to imagine them as leaves of vellum bound into a massive, dusty, leather-covered tome full of arcane secrets; this Tokyo-based collective, founded by singer and guitarist Masaki Batoh in the mid-80s, makes […]

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Utah Phillips

Born in Cleveland in 1935, Utah (born Bruce) Phillips helped shape American folk music for the generations following the WWII-era ascent of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger. Like those two icons, Phillips emphasizes working-class tales; a card-carrying Wobbly, he’s performed and written countless pro-union tunes. But Phillips’s politicized approach, a product of his experiences in […]