Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Music Library: Jellydots, Jellyfish, Jenny Hoyston, Jenny Lewis, Jennyanykind, Jens Lekman, Jerry Garcia & David Grisman, Jerry Lee Lewis

The Jellydots - "Hey You Kids" (2006). As a parent, I know how tough it is to find children's music that both you and they can enjoy. I mean, it's great that my son loves Black Sabbath sometimes, but he's not always in the mood for doom metal, being, y'know, a four-year-old and all. The Austin band the Jellydots play music that's straightforward power pop, always a good thing for my kids. And the songs work as children's songs but make a few nods to the adults listening in. Not so bad!

Jellyfish - "The Ghost At Number One." Decent power-pop. This band is beloved by many people, so I know I should probably listen to them more often.

Jenny Hoyston & William Elliott - "First of a Thousand Beasts." I think this alt-country track was a free eMusic download. It's pretty good. I like the singing saw.

Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins - "Rise Up With Fists!!!" This was on a mix I got way back when that was broken up by iTunes when my library crashed in 2007. I like how Jenny Lewis looks, 'cause hot damn! is she a looker, but I find her music sorta tepid.

Jennyanykind - Revelator (1996). Fantastic Chapel Hill band with a bluesy, sometimes piano-driven sound. This was their major-label album, and I think it went nowhere. Which is a shame because it's pretty great music. My friend Cliff was in the band at one point, but that was after this one. Anyway, I suspect the lyrical focus on religion and struggle did not work in their favor, because the song titles make it like the listener is in for some hard-core proselytizing, instead of the Dylan-esque questioning that one finds herein.

Jens Lekman - Maple Leaves EP (2003), When I Said I Wanted To Be Your Dog (2004), Oh You're So Silent Jens (2005), and Night Falls On Kortedala (2007). Lekman's Wikipedia page mentioned Jonathan Richman, Belle & Sebastian, and Stephin Merritt right at the top, and that seems pretty damn accurate by my ear. Lekman's music has Richman's timelessness and humor, Belle & Sebastian's 60s-pop sensibility, and Stephin Merritt's way of burrowing into the jokey premise and blowing it up. He's one of my favorite musicians out there right now. The Maple Leaves EP, with the extraordinary title song ("when she said we were just make-believe, I thought she said maple leaves/I never understood at all/and when she talked about the fall/I thought she meant Mark E. Smith/I never understood at all"), is repeated on the collection Oh You're So Silent Jens, which compiles most of his EPs to that point. The standout on When I Said I Wanted To Be Your Dog is the utterly gorgeous "Higher Power": "In church on Sunday making out in front of the preacher/you had a black shirt on with a big picture of Nietzsche/when we had done our thing for a full Christian hour/I had made up my mind that there must be a higher power." DAMN. Night Falls on Kortedala is a tour-de-force through baroque pop, doo wop, rockabilly, and hip-hop beats but with an overreaching feel that transcends genre. My favorite song here is "A Postcard To Nina," which uses doo wop and R&B horn samples to propel a story in which Jens pretends to be the boyfriend of a lesbian pal with an intolerant father. There are hijinks galore as their stories clash, but Lekman caps it all with an beautifully heartfelt suckerpunch.

Jerry Garcia & David Grisman - Not For Kids Only (1993). I've had this forever. It's not good. It's not bad. It's just there. These are pretty much all traditional songs (with one by Elizabeth Cotten), and I have far better versions by other artists. Both of these guys sound like they're just messing around, and the songs, unfortunately, rarely rise above jam-session recordings. Not my cup of tea. But I can't really convince myself to get rid of it either.

Jerry Lee Lewis - "What's Made Milwaukee Famous" and 18 Original Sun Greatest Hits (1984). That's better! The Killer brings it, regardless of what "it" is. The single is, of course, Lewis's amazing country track from 1968. The collection, with its name that just keeps going on, is full of his classic Sun tracks from the late 50s. Which means that it is indispensible. Rock music doesn't get much better than this.


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