MUSIC REVIEWS: Belle and Sebastian, Titus Andronicus, Tom Freund, Jaheim
Joining the ranks of The Who, Jimi Hendrix, the Kinks, and Led Zepplin, one of indie rock’s most significant bands, Belle and Sebastian, released their two-disc BBC Sessions, which features many of the songs we know and love plus four previously unreleased tracks. All songs were recorded live between 1996 and 2001, and this review is for the first CD only. Overall, the BBC Sessions is a nice compilation of songs for both those new to the band and die hard fans alike. Something you might notice, the band’s slow songs like “State I Am In” were made even slower on the album, while the fast songs like “I Could Be Dreaming” were seemingly a little faster than the original studio versions. My favorite tracks are “Stars of Track and Field,” which previously appeared on the If You’re Feeling Sinister album, and “Slow Graffiti,” a track which only appeared on their B Sides album released in 2005. While this two-disc compilation is not necessarily a must own, every true indie rock fan must know and listen to Belle and Sebastian, and this album provides a great compilation of some of their best work in a live format.
Though they are not the first lyrics to be sung, the first sentiment to be expressed, for all intents and purposes, the first discernible words on The Airing of Grievances are “Fuck You.” This is an important sentiment for the boys in Titus Andronicus, who seem less concerned with creating a lasting, fleshed-out musical legacy, so much as they are in jotting all their ideas down before the world ends.
Having little time for musical niceties like studio polish and singing lessons, the band comes off as an even more scuffed-up young Conor Oberst, with all the tendencies towards self-loathing and grating vocals that implies. Their album is indie-rock wrung through the hands of God almighty as the world falls apart, pieces of punk rock dripping through the cracks. You’d make music like this too if you came from Jersey.
Like a smooth drive down a coastal highway, Tom Freund’s latest album Collapsible Plans combines the perfect amount of salt and sweet. Travel through all ten tracks of his album and you’ll find Freund worthy of such praise from people like Ben Harper, his friend, producer, and former bandmate, “I have been moved by Tom’s music since the first note we played together in my family’s music store after closing time — just he and I with two guitars until the morning hours. Tom is an extraordinarily talented multi-instrumentalist.” A true tour-de-force, Freund supplies each soothing track with nothing less than his best on the upright bass, the guitar (electric and acoustic), and in his original lyrics, which come to life by his vocals, and throw in a Wurlitzer or an ukulele for good measure. A particularly notable track is the sweet and sentimental “Copper Moon” for which Jackson Browne supplies more honey-for-the-ear with piano and background vocals. Sometimes melancholy, sometimes happy, but always thoughtful, each song crafts an idea of what life is like when love is (and isn’t) present. Fortunately, Freund’s sophistication doesn’t include any saccharine sap–the possible result of Freund’s native New York sense with his California sensibilities, a winning combination for an album to which we can all relate.
Since Jaheim emerged as an artist, he has been known to deliver a chemistry and style that perfectly fits within the realm of pure soul music. With a delicate balance of pulsing rhythms, sweet and enticing choruses and sensual soulful sentiments about loss, lust, longing and remorse, each song contains all those things that make love and romance a planet in which no one wants to ever leave. Jaheim always stays true to form. “Classic Jaheim Vol. 1” is a nine song compilation of tracks from his album’s prior to 2007’s release, “Making’s of a Man.” The album’s strongest single, “Just in Case,” is a directive that speaks about the desires of a lover who wants one last night together just in case. “Fabulous” is an upbeat ode to togetherness and pride while giving a nod to the funky style of street life as well as the reality of unfortunate circumstances and inevitable victories that are just the way of life no matter who you are or where you live. These songs about love and life true to all those ever born is what makes Jaheim’s true soul music relatable and super sensual for any audience.