Lincoln Barr is the singer/songwriter for Seattle band Red Jacket Mine, who recently released their critically-acclaimed third LP Someone Else’s Cake on Fin Records (finrecords.com). Red Jacket Mine embarks on a tour of the US West Coast in mid-April – see http://redjacketmine.net/shows for all dates. Here are five albums he’s loving right now…
1 – Rumer, Boys Don’t Cry: A friend first mentioned this album to me last year, but I only recently got around to checking it out. Wow…what a lovely piece of work. I hate to simply repeat the critical mantra and compare Rumer’s voice to Karen Carpenter’s, but damn if the resemblance isn’t uncanny…and there’s no higher praise in my book. Couple her wondrous instrument with a repertoire of male-penned (hence the title) gems from the American pop songbook (including an absolutely sublime version of John Sebastian’s Welcome Back) and a crack studio band, and what’s not to like? This is lush, beautiful pop music the way it used to be made.
2 – NRBQ, At Yankee Stadium: A serious contender for Greatest American Band, the classic line-up of NRBQ had it all – songs, chops, and a wicked sense of humour that imbued everything they did with a light-hearted, freewheeling vibe that is positively infectious. At Yankee Stadium contains some of their finest songs, including the Joey Spampinato-sung I Want You Bad and the Al Anderson scorcher It Comes to Me Naturally. Recommended for all fans of American music, dissonant clavinet, and fun.
3- Joel Plaskett Emergency, Ashtray Rock: A friend turned me onto this Canadian songwriter, and it’s tough to pick just one of his albums – he’s got so many good ones. I recently compared him to Ted Leo (a comparison Mr. Plaskett himself endorsed on Twitter), and they certainly share a similar punk/folk troubadour mentality, but Plaskett mixes in some softer influences and a bit more humour. This record is worth purchasing for the anthemic Penny For Your Thoughts and sly Fashionable People alone…both just fantastic pieces of pop songwriting, bursting with personality and interesting production touches.
4 – Koufax, Social Life: My wife and I caught this band opening for Wilco in St. Louis on the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot tour, back in 2003 or so, and their taut, new-wave-y piano pop won us over immediately. We bought a CD that night, and this album became the soundtrack to our early 20s. The band sputtered in the mid-aughts, and I’ve often wondered what became of singer/principal songwriter Robert Suchan, as he appeared to drop completely off the (musical) map. I recently stumbled upon this podcast, on a random Google, and it turns out he’s spent the last five years or so working in the other side of the music industry, managing merchandise for major touring acts like Larry the Cable Guy (!) and Tim McGraw. Go figure!
Anyway, this record still stands up very well…imagine a cross between Joe Jackson (whose classic Steppin’ Out was a staple of their concert repertoire) and the Cure, if all of the Cure’s songs were peppy piano-driven numbers like Lovecats and Why Can’t I Be You?, instead of the gauzy guitar stuff. Smart songs with attitude. Here’s hoping Mr. Suchan hasn’t permanently retired from music-making.
5 – Joe Jackson, Volume Four: Speaking of ol’ Joe, I completely missed this album when it came out. Billed as a reunion of his original band – featuring Graham Maby on bass, Gary Sanford on guitar, and Dave Houghton on drums – it updates the glorious template of Look Sharp! and I’m the Man with some of the harmonic complexity of Jackson’s later work, but doesn’t sacrifice vigour in the process. Highlights include the twelve-string driven Still Alive (which quotes Steely Dan’s Barrytown in the bridge – a sure-fire path to my heart), Beat Crazy–reminiscent opener Take It Like a Man, and fuzz-bass stomper Little Bit Stupid.