"It is veneer, rouge, aestheticism, art museums, new theaters, etc. that make America impotent. The good things are football, kindness, and jazz bands."
Combining Devendra Banhart’s “new weird American” eccentricity, Flaming Lips-influenced electronic bells and whistles, and a Wilco-esque twanginess, These United States create a musical melting pot of indie pop sound.
From their Rdio profile. I don’t find them particularly Wilcoy, in large part because the lyrics are as poetic as anything anyone else has done in the last five years are so in a way that even Tweedy only occasionally even strives for.
Their first two albums, A Picture of the Three Of Us… and Crimes, are incredible, rambling stories with powerful chorus phrases and spirit. Lot’s of people get the Bob Dylan comparison, but it’s earned here. Plus they did a wicked cover of "If You Gotta Go" several years ago that was just fantastic.
There are about 85 different covers of this on YouTube, but Dylan’s dollar folks have done a solid cleanse of the original recording from said site as it’s nowhere to be found. I can’t even find a live Dylan version of the song with the harmonica, which, as I’m getting to, is the song for me (although one with a screaming guitar in its place can be found here).
As rabidly as I have been into parts of Dylan’s work, he loses me entirely in 1970. There’s nothing particularly wrong with Nashville Skyline except that I don’t like it, and then the chord is completely cut with his “What is this shit?!” Self Portrait.
Unlike the majority of responses — about how he’s betraying himself or squandering gifts or whatever else — I not only understand the turn but actually appreciate it. People wanted their socks blown off over and over again, with music that was both in there genes and refreshingly cutting to the core of current events and sensibilities about a world that was morphing in a very weird way. Nothing good every lasts and, besides, it’s a good less in people’s right to self determination (The Marinovich Project, now on Netflix, is another). Besides, his popular success meant living in a different universe from the one he was in shortly before that, stealing folk records and passing hats in Greenwich Village. The environment made the music and both changed, which makes sense.
What’s interesting, though, is that he still shows glimpses of his old self in a way that very clearly strikes at my subconscious. The song above is linked only because, during the harp section at the end, I walked by someone playing it on speakers, and knew it was either something I’ve known very well or would like to. It was the latter, although only the part after the final verse.
So some of the same colors of paint are still there, even if I only seem to get them in pieces of songs instead of spread all over entire albums.
Ryan Adams has always been an enigma for me. To start, I’ve seen probably a dozen pictures of him, and I’m still not sure I have any idea what he looks like. That confusion seems to spill over into his music, as well. It’s pretty hard to reconcile something like “The End”:
…with an image like this one:
Although maybe not. The country part seems to be a genetic structure, which he’s clearly a natural at using. The anger and energy is something different, though, and probably what makes him worth paying attention to over the army of other members of the MTV generation that learned how to put dust bowl chord progressions together.
He and The Cardinals crush it on Jacksonville City Nights the old fashion way, but then “Love Is Hell” sounds like something off the Can’t Hardly Wait soundtrack, only six years too late.
And yet I don’t know if I own anything as semi-modern as Heartbreaker that holds up so well with age. He initially pulls my subconscious with that almost-Highway 61 Revisited sound to open track one, and then songwrites to glory with one of my favorite all time songs, “Sweet Carolina”, with bonus points for the Cleveland reference:
And this is all on top of "Come Pick Me Up" being one of the better modern breakup songs you’ve heard a very long time. It mixes and matches like this for fifteen tracks.
And yet, take a commercial hit like Ashes & Fire, ballady, sure, but incredibly lacking in all the inspiring ways that make Heartbreaker so alluring. He’s been doing this for twelve years now, making it hard to preorder anything and, at the same time, put down the stuff that overcomes.