Benny's Bar on Colorado Avenue should add this compliation to the jukebox. The album is absolutely perfect for high-falutin' alt-country, blues and rockabilly lovers, with enough tang and twang to satisfy all PBR-swiggin' souls. Cigarette-stained vocals color many songs, though Robyn Hitchcock's "We're Gonna Live in the Trees" sounds oddly like Joe Strummer. Crushworthy Jon Spencer takes time out from his Blues Explosion to join Heavy Trash, with sexy lo-fi growlings to spare, and Chatham County Line's "Nowhere to Sleep" is a nice surprise with some old-fashioned banjo-lovin'. The bugger of the whole thing is that the CD comes inside specially marked 12-packs of beer from Oskar Blues Brewery in Lyons. Finding them around these southern parts will be akin to a treasure hunt, so rush: They're only available for a limited time. Check out oskarblues.com for more.
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We Will Become Like Birds Nettwerk America
When I first heard McKeown's "Blackbirds" from Distillation, I fell in love with her intricate lyrics and jazzy approach to what otherwise would have been a pedestrian revision of an old nursery rhyme. Her latest CD, We Will Become Like Birds, maintains her trademark loopy vowels and vocal stylings, but somewhere along the way she adopted a Natalie Merchant guise. The outcome is certainly proficient and likeable, but it's just so ... nice. As in the "nice" boy or girl your mom always wanted you to date. You can't place what's wrong, but it's a little boring. The opening "Aspera" is fine; "To the Stars" is actually a little catchy; and "Beautiful (I Guess)" is lovely, but should not be listened to while operating a motor vehicle.
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Kidnapped by Neptune Too Pure
You wanna talk challenging? Welcome to the age of Scout Niblett. She's a love-her-or-hate-her type of artist, a Brit with a penchant for Cat Power-like vocals that twist into the oddest, prettiest and sometimes most uncomfortable shapes. Niblett plays nearly every instrument; guitars ring deceptively simple on some songs and fairly roar on others. "Does anyone know a cute girl with some pom poms?/'Cos everyone needs someone to spell out their name," Niblett mourns on "Pom Poms." There are plenty of surprisingly dance- worthy songs, including the title track and "Hot to Death," though, typical of the leaps she takes, each is almost like two songs, logical segues be damned. Thanks to tracks like "Fuck Treasure Island" and "Lullaby for Scout in Ten Years," any requisite patience is worthwhile.