The Rich Girls Are Weeping

17 July 2006

Especially for TRGAW superfriend Joanna's birthday -- new French Kicks! BTW, they're touring this fall with TRGAW pals What Made Milwaukee Famous and drumsnsynths duo Matt and Kim (who, strangely enough, are being Mates of State better than Mates of State themselves lately). Pretty cool, eh?

Anyway, I spent some time over the weekend listening to Two Thousand (which sees release tomorrow, 7/22), the third album from the French Kicks, and I was reminded just exactly why (you know, in case this point hadn't been driven home by the wonderful Shearwater set Friday night) you stick with a band for a few years -- let them develop and grow over the course of several tours and releases -- instead of heaping accolades on a band that's done, well, neither yet. That's not to say that some up-and-coming new bands don't deserve praise and appreciation, but I can't help but feel, as I pretty much always do, that music bloggers spend too much time trying to find the next big thing for their own personal vaildation in places where such things will never be found -- especially with bands that have played a handful (if any) live shows and a-step-above-amateurish recording to sell at the merch table or on their website.

But back to the French Kicks -- they've finally stepped out from the shadow of labelmates The Walkmen (Two Thousand is a Vagrant/Startime International co-release) and have emerged with a delightfully fresh and complex sound that ends up sounding like bizzaro cloudy-day, moody surf music made from the bottom of an East Coast oubliette. This is what happens when influences are thououghly digested and processed and used for inspiration and not balls-out replication, a lesson a goodly number of other bands I've used this space to rant about might do well to take to heart.

French Kicks -- So Far We Are
French Kicks -- Go On

An interlude: The pretty animated video for The Organ's "Let the Bells Ring," directed by Valerie Toumayan.

Moving on: The New York Times would like you to know that alt.country is dead. Right on, we've known that for, well, forever, really -- especially after we went our of our way to stop keeping up with the Bloodshot Records roster and suffered through one too many awful Magnolia Electric Co. shows. What's interesting is that Jessie Fox Mayshark barely takes note of the fact that alt.country/Americana, such as it is, didn't ever really exist outside of being a construct of the editors at No Depression and later, people who wanted to cash in on the popularity of O Brother Where Art Thou. The most interesting "alt.country" is living where it always has -- just located further down in the independent music strata, rather than in an actual codified genre. Mayshark mentions Neko Case's move in to "noirsh pop" on Fox Confessor Brings the Flood as something earth-shattering and the death knell of something, when in fact, it's just another step down the road she's already travelled far and wide; Ms. Case has consistently eshewed and challenged the alt.country label throughout her career. And Mayshark could easily find alt.country's legacies and stepchildren if he looked hard enough -- Bright Eyes? My Morning Jacket? Josh Ritter? Calexico? Okkervil River? The Elected and Jenny Lewis' solo work? The Court and Spark? The recent Townes Van Zandt resurgence, thanks to Margaret Brown's brilliant documentary? And not to mention all the alt.country strands running through freak folk. Perhaps we should call this the alt.country/Americana diaspora or something. But the absolute weirdest thing about the article was that slightly-more-mainstream friendly blogger faves and nouveaux alt.country standard bearers like Drive-By Truckers, Centro-matic, and Magnolia Electric Co. didn't even rate a mention. But then again, what can you expect from an article with the central premise of being excited/thrilled that the Jayhawks are still together and doing roughly the same ol' thing? Exactly.

I'm just spinning my wheels here, I think. I'm having a real weird day.

Kelly Hogan -- Between Love and Hate
Bob Dylan -- Don't Think Twice, It's All Right
Fred Neil -- I've Got a Secret (Didn't We Shake Sugaree) [dang, I don't have Mary Lou Lord's version of this with me, or I'd post it as well]

6 Comments:

Blogger merz said...

Cindy you nailed it (right on the money) about the new French Kicks, excellent!

Monday, July 17, 2006 9:13:00 PM  
Blogger Lodi said...

Gosh, I want the album sooo bad...

I'm so sad that I won't be able to go to their show in San Diego, 'cause is a 21+...

Tuesday, July 18, 2006 1:39:00 AM  
Blogger J Frank Parnell said...

yeah, the alt country piece was a Jayhawks stroke job, which is nice, but do the Js really need it when the cash is coming in from writing for the Dixie Chicks?

The Meat Puppets were the first truly alt country band. Them and maybe some gun club. Sure, there's the Band, Dylan, Byrds, Flying Burrito Bros, Neil Young at times, etc, but hippies aren't alt. They never messed with the genre, not really. Meat Puppets, on their second album, mistreated c&w, and therefore made something new.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger cindy hotpoint said...

There is something about Arizona that inspires the 'alt.country' -- weird.

I never even liked the Jayhawks, I always thought they were REALLY boring. Not that I wouldn't write a wanky piece on my favorite band for the Newspaper of Record, but really -- stroke job is an understatement!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006 5:42:00 PM  
Blogger joanna said...

thank you thank you!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006 5:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Steve said...

That NYT piece rankled me too.. especially since Mayshark has a piece in just about every issue of No Depression these days! Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!

Monday, July 24, 2006 9:54:00 PM  

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