Our Shadows Will Remain
He's hardly a household name, but if standout singer/songwriter Joseph Arthur keeps releasing albums as good as Our Shadows Will Remain, it's only a matter of time for his turn in the limelight.
However, it's clear that for Arthur, the conventional star-making machinery process doesn't apply. The CD jacket for his fourth release contains pages of photos of his own abstract art, but not one image of himself. Arthur appears intent on letting his intense, global music stand on its own without the distracting pop accoutrements that usually come part and parcel.
Arthur - an Akron, Ohio native - is the discovery of another musical visionary, Peter Gabriel, who signed the multi-instrumentalist to his Real World label in 1997 and began including him in his annual WOMAD shows. The two share a sense of musical adventurism, an expansive style that can encompass brooding introspection and uplifting anthems, and a belief that their music should be more than just entertainment.
Impossible to pigeonhole, Our Shadows Will Remain ranges from the U2 earnestness of "Can't Exist" with its spine-tingling passage - "Sister don't be scared, a thousand times or more, I've walked away alive/On my feet again," leading in to a wall of sound chorus, to the spare Gabriel-like beauty of "Echo Park" in which Arthur is accompanied by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.
Despite the lyrical mining of the depth of his soul, Arthur can also write pop hooks to die for, like the chorus of "Devil's Broom." In an interview early in his career, Arthur refers to his music as "someone struggling to heal over experimental folk-rock." Our Shadows Will Remain will certainly provide the required healing powers for its listeners. It stands as a bright beacon of 2005 rock.
Permanent Record - The Very Best of
One of the more interesting post-punk alternative bands that sprang up in the early 1980s, the Violent Femmes could make an acoustic guitar, stand-up bass and a makeshift drum kit sound like an act of aggression. The Wisconsin trio were a mixture of Lou Reed lyrical fixations, Talking Heads musical quirkiness, and Jonathan Richman warped troubadour weirdness, combined with the primal energy of punk.
Songs of teenage angst like "Gimme the Car" and "Add It Up" didn't leave much to the imagination, but it was that raw exposure of nerves, desire, and frustration that made the Femmes college radio cult favorites throughout the decade. The trio's 1983 self-titled debut from which five of the 16 songs on this career retrospective are derived never made the charts or received any mainstream airplay. But it has slowly gone platinum over the years, partially thanks to one of the all-time great driving songs - "Blister in the Sun."
Later albums showed the band diversifying its jittery style with attempts at gospel soul in "I Held Her in My Arms," and cow punk in "Jesus Walking on the Water." Collectors will be pleased at the inclusion of non-album tracks like the satirical "Country Death Song" and a bonus track.
Years before "unplugged" became a marketing ploy for MTV, Violent Femmes were creating electricity of their own without the amps.