Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Review: Mike Doughty, Haughty Melodic

(yes, my first pretentious review, with .mp3s at the end. Enjoy...)

Former Soul Coughing frontman Mike Doughty (insert obligatory "white-boy hip-hop" reference here) has spent the last few years beating a heroin addiction, getting his heart broken by nubile olive-skinned women, and touring relentlessly in stripped-down, boy-and-his-guitar form, building a fan base while working and re-working many of the songs that appear on this, his long-awaited proper solo debut.

It's a shame, then, that many of the rabid fans who have marvelled at the former M.'s transformation from - well, you know, "white boy hip-hop" - to smart-ass acoustic folkie are bound to be disappointed in Haughty Melodic. The leap from the intimacy of Doughty's bare arrangements (highlighted on 2003's self released live album Smofe and Smang) to the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink production of Semisonic's Dan Wilson is a jarring one. Nearly every song here is filled with, for lack of a better word, stuff - layers of horns, strings, keyboards, backing vocals, banjo, electronic squeals, and even Dave f'n Matthews invade throughout, with Doughty's vocals and percussive acoustic guitar struggling to be heard above the muck. The results, while never less than interesting, aren't always pretty, and even listeners who aren't familiar with the songs in their previous unadorned forms will no doubt get the feeling that the production here bogs down some truly great songwriting.

That said, Melodic is still a fine album. When the overall sound works, as on first single "Looking at the World From the Bottom of a Well", the results are an impressive mix of the avant-garde sonics of Soul Coughing and the noisy theatrics of bands like The Arcade Fire or Neutral Milk Hotel. And even when all the extra noise threatens to swallow Doughty whole, it's hard not to get caught up in the sublimely awkward lyricism and propulsive melodies of songs like "Grey Ghost", an apparent ode to the author's military-brat childhood and/or the death of friend Jeff Buckley ("On the docks of Memphis with a boombox, nodding out.../He will not walk out the river"). Still, the album works best when the songs are allowed to shine on their own; the acoustic-and-slide-guitar beauty of "White Lexus" and spare, two-step drums of "Sunken-Eyed Girl" are highlights not only of the album, but of the year in music so far.

Overall, recommended, with the caveat that longtime fans be prepared for less "small rock" and more big noise.

And for the free stuff, here's a demo from the record that didn't make the cut:

Mike Doughty - I'm Still Drinking In My Dreams

And, some unreleased Soul Coughing to boot:

Soul Coughing - Wooly Imbibe

Saturday, April 30, 2005

That's What I Thought....

Yeah, two months is pretty much exactly how long I figured I'd put this off. For those of you unfamiliar with this whole "audioblog" phenomenon, here's the short version: some people think that their general taste in the arts is impeccable. We call these people "assholes". These "assholes" take it upon themselves to enlighten the unwashed masses by throwing up .mp3s of stuff they dig, armed with the knowledge that if they like it, surely anyone else with any taste whatsover will as well.

So hi, my name is Josh, and I'm an asshole. Thanks for playing along. Soon enough I'll start throwing up (very, very sporadic) reviews of both new and old releases, but for the most part I'm just planning on throwing random stuff up here and prattling on and on about it. Files can and will come and go at random, so if you think you want it, grab it: daddy ain't buying up no more storage space.

We'll start with a couple of my favorite subjects: ironic covers and obscure Athens, GA bands. The cover: French electro-whatever douche Mirwais and former Shudder to Think frontman Craig Wedren out-sleazying Jagger himself with their version of "Miss You".

Mirwais featuring Craig Wedren - "Miss You"

The Athens band: Carrie Nations, who probably don't want their music categorized as "pop-punk", but I promise I mean it in a good, Stiff Little Fingers kinda way.

Carrie Nations - "Girlfriend"

Saturday, February 26, 2005

So Yeah....

There's really only about a 17% chance that I'll actually take the time to do this, but for now I'm deluding myself into thinking that I'll be reviewing new music sporadically, throwing up random .mp3s, and eventually hosting a radio show here. Believe it when you see it...