Sunday, December 18, 2011

Two Great Albums by Singer-Songwriters With a Christmasy Song on Them

By West Village Bill

If it were possible, I'd have worn a digital groove in my iPhone listening to the great new albums by Matt Alber and David Mead over and over again.

I really enjoyed Alber's first album, Hide Nothing, and his second, Constant Crows, is a very successful follow-up. It starts off with the fantastic "Velvet Goldmine," whose second verse mentions Christmasy things like letting it snow, tinsel, and angels getting wings. And he sings Who-ish syllables toward the end of the song, after the listener has been swallowed up in gorgeous strings and horns.

Another favorite song from the album is "Brother Moon," a fun and sweet number Matt performs with his brother, Bryce. I had assumed that was who his singing partner was and confirmed it by asking Matt on Facebook. Look at me doing original reporting for this review. :-)

The river in question from the title of the second song on the album isn't named until the last three syllables. Read all about it here, if you're a geography buff. It's the longest river in North America but only the 13th largest in terms of discharge of water because it drains from rather dry parts of the U.S. and Canada.

Other highlights are the beautifully produced "Wallingford" and a fantastic cover of Madonna's "Take a Bow" that ends the album.

A couple of quibbles: I would have welcomed some more uptempo songs—after "Brother Moon," the rest of the album is decidedly slow—and some more songs period. There are only 10.

But I'm happy to have this new material from Matt, and I'll definitely try to catch him when he performs in New York in 2012.


Even though most of the songs are bro-centric, there's quite a bit of variety in the subject matter of the lyrics on Mead's Dudes. There's a tune about a guy who comes out of the closet with the help of a dude named Bob, whom he meets at a bar called The Golden Knob ("Guy on Guy"). One about hanging out with a couple of old guys* who talk shit while playing bocce ball and drinking beer ("Bocce Ball"). And a saxaphone-rific number about the "King of the Crosswords."

The opener, "I Can't Wait," gets the album off to an invigorating start. And "No One Roxx This Town" is as fun as it sounds like it ought to be.

"Tell Me What I Gotta Do," "Don't Forget," and the title song are beautiful, contemplative songs, as is the heartbreaking Christmas tune, which has the very unexpected title "The Smile of Rachael Ray." "TSORR" has gotten some well-deserved publicity thanks to being named NPR's Song of the Day on Wednesday and to Ray's appreciation of the song.

 *At first, I pictured these dudes as being a bunch of Jewish alter kockers** because one is named Sol and says "Oi vai." But after listening to the lyrics some more, I realized there are only two guys, and the other one is an Italian named Vito who has agita from eating eggplant parmigiana.

**I love that the mascot for this Yiddish glossary site is a yarmulke-wearing basset named Howard.

Note: Mead has also just released an album of five more Christmas songs called Instant December. I like the three tracks that can be heard here; I'm not sure what the other two are.

Crossposted at Hawleyblog

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