Known Johnson

May 3, 2005

Overlooked Alternatives: new releases for May 3, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 10:29 pm

So you’ve got $30 or so left after picking up the new Nine Inch Nails and you want to know what to spend it on . . . I have a couple of suggestions that you might just wind up listening to a lot more than the new NIN, good as it is:

Mike Doughty: Haughty Melodic – Former Soul Coughing singer and guitarist Doughty strikes out in a decidedly different direction than his former band on his new solo album. If you’ve heard his two previous releases, which are now offered together as Skittish/Rockity Roll, there’s nothing shockingly new on this album – just a perfection of what he’s been doing since Soul Coughing disolved. If you haven’t, Doughty’s direction is more singer-songwriter, but isn’t any less ear-catchy and infectious than Soul Coughing was at their heights. Less funky, maybe, which is odd given the appearance by NERD drummer Eric Fawcett, whose tasteful drumming backs Doughty on a number of the album’s tracks. Think Dave Matthews (who also appears on the album) mixed with David Gray’s delivery and thoughtful lyrics.

Aimee Mann: The Forgotten Arm – The former Til Tuesday frontwoman turns in yet another amazing performance, this time in the form of a concept album centered around boxing as a metaphor for relationships. Or something like that. It doesn’t really matter – what matters is Mann’s songcraft is once again in check with an immediately comfortable listen, a fact which might make it sound like she’s loafing a bit on the momentum of her previous album, the prickly Lost in Space. But the songs this time around are a little more accessible, the subject matter a little more engrossing, even if Joe Henry’s production is a bit muddled and flat, and in general too pointlessly playful, such as having drums panned nearly hard-right and Mann’s vocals panned hard-left for no particular reason. Mann doesn’t need such gimmickry, but I’m sure this album has been preplanned as an eventual surround-sound release (and then another re-release with bonus tracks, which was the frustrating development of events with Lost in Space. And dammit, I did buy that bonus-disc version and have come to love every minute of it. Don’t you hate that? On the one hand it’s a frustrating habit that forces big fans like me to pay at least twice (three times had I a surround-sound system – whew!) On the other it allows the artist to put together an amazing package like she did with the deluxe Lost in Space, which was packaged in a beautiful book and included a 10-song bonus disc of live tracks and outtakes.) Don’t say you weren’t warned, but buy it anyway because it’s a damn great set of songs.

That’s it for this week. Join me next week when I attempt to convince you that Weezer’s new album Make Believe is “overlooked” just so I can talk about it.

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