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Carry Me

I don't get reviewers. I realize I qualify as one myself due to my humble presence on this site, but I shun any association with them as a culture. And there is a culture that accompanies the life of a reviewer, a culture that shares the collective unconscious and vice of the Press Packet.

Month after month, I receive these packets in the mail and am told what to think about a record or book. Comparisons, influences, and even other reviews are included in your average packet, mixed in with a couple of headshots of the artist. All material is favorable in a press packet since labels obviously have a vested interest in promoting the sale of their products.

Usually about 2 weeks after receiving these packets, I begin seeing reviews scattered in the Village Voice, Time-Out, and other such media. I suppose I should come to expect it by now, but it never ceases to amaze me when I see a press packet being regurgitated by some asinine reviewer. And this seems to happen more often than not. I can't count the number of times I have seen the contents of a press packet (all praise of course) reiterated in a review almost verbatim.

I'm not cynical enough to blame this on payoffs, though they surely do occur on occasion. I think the main problem is laziness. It isn't always easy to find something to say about a recording and reviewers sometimes find it easier to merely regurgitate what the labels have to say about an artist.

Another equally appalling trend I see is the pack mentality of reviewers. An album gets a positive review in the first publication in which it appears and all succeeding reviewers feel inclined to follow in suit. There is a graveyard of music out there sacrificed to reviewers too lazy to listen and discern for themselves. And likewise, an A list of records that should have never made it copper, much less gold. I suppose its too much to ask that the reviewers actually listen to the damn music and decide for themselves.

And I bring this all up, because of all the uninspired reviews I have read lately of the new Tim Easton record, The Truth About Us. I heard about this CD first in Time-out (yes I am guilty of flipping through their reviews on occasion) and noticed that his new disk featured Wilco (sans Jeff Tweedy) on all tracks. Normally, the Wilco-factor would be a big enough sell for me to immediately run out and buy the record. But the reviewer made the record seem like such a drag, essentially saying the music was depressing and uninspired, that I decided to instead give it a spin (click?) by downloading from Napster.

Needless to say since I have been leading up to this for 10 minutes now, this is a really good record. It is not depressing (though it is mellow) or uninspired (Wilco is on it goddammit) and it definitely should not be left behind in the reviewer's graveyard. The music sounds like Wilco with John Prine as a front man and is a must-have for fans of alt-country and indie-folk. The Truth About Us is one of those disks that you can leave in your player on repeat and listen to 3 times in a row without tiring of it.

Disk highs include "I Would Have Married You," with its reflective lyrics and melody, "Get Some Lonesome" which sounds eerily like Palace, and "Downtown Lights," the album's closest thing to pop. Wilco is at their mellow best with fluttering piano licks and their usual understated guitars. American Music Club's Bruce Kaphane is also featured on pedal steel on songs such as the redemptive "Carry Me." But overall, I suppose the nicest thing about this collection is its sheer honesty. It transcends the connotations that "indie" and "alt" carry with simple and unpretentious songwriting.

After reading a couple more unfavorable reviews, I shared the MP3's with several of my friends and they all agreed; the music is good and should be given a chance. So its not just me. The truth about The Truth About Us is it is one of the year's best recordings thus far.

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