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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Robert Deeble
Thirteen Stories
Mindbomb Records

Rating: 7.8/10 ?


October 1, 2004
Here's the problem with the singer-songwriter aesthetic: too many artists are lazy bastards. They try to coast by on their simple arrangements and introspective lyrics, as though picking up an acoustic guitar and writing some three chord ditty about heartbreak is a higher and purer form of art than doing the exact same thing in, say, a pop-punk context.

They get away with it, too. People buy into the whole less-is-more shtick way too readily, and are exponentially more hesitant to constructively criticize art when it's just one person that they're criticizing. After all, solo songwriters look so vulnerable sitting there with nothing but a smile, a dusty pair of Levi's, and an acoustic six-string; somehow, they're able to convince us that their art is much more heartfelt and personal than an entire band's art, and that to criticize it would be to criticize the very heart of another human being.

Thankfully, Robert Deeble doesn't pull any of that bullshit on us, the open-minded but highly demanding music listening populace, largely because his Thirteen Stories are just as much musical stories as they are lyrical stories. Deeble doesn't coast; he makes every note count, and he creates the sort of engrossing, palpable environments that lesser artists can't attain to with thrice as many instruments. The very fact that Deeble can include two instrumental numbers and never lose your attention for a second proves him to be a true writer of songs rather than another dime-a-dozen songwriter.

Thirteen Stories isn't the first time we've heard from Mr. Deeble, but it is his first release in five years, so it will likely serve as an introduction for many; and that's just fine, because it's an outstanding introduction.

Like many guitar-toting troubadours, Deeble is heavily indebted to a handful of monolithic forbears, but he readily recognizes this fact, paying tribute to Leonard Cohen in the liner notes and tipping his hat to Lou Reed with a stellar cover of "I'll Be Your Mirror". While Deeble doesn't do anything to set himself on equal footing with any of the gods or demigods of American songwriting, he does play with his own voice, and we're left with a wonderful clutch of glorious moments by the album's end.

"The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson" showcases his gentle approach to melody, centering around a swooping bass line and a repetitive, articulate acoustic guitar hook. On this song, and on many of the album's other songs, Deeble alternates between matching his voice to his guitar playing and branching off vocally while taking the melody with him. This creates a feeling of spontaneity, and adds to the album's already prominent "live" feel.

Other highlights include the smoky piano blues of "Jack's Diary" and the delicate, spiritually intimate "Eclipse". Though Deeble's lyrics are often more effective as snapshots rather than stories, his combinations of words and music create beautiful, distinct songs that you shouldn't be likely to forget anytime soon. Don't let the plethora of mediocre singer-songwriters deter you - Robert Deeble is a true diamond in the rough.

Reviewed by Phillip Buchan
A one-time music director at WUOG in Athens, Phillip is into college radio, literature, writing, buying records, going to shows, talking to friends, learning -- pretty much the same stuff that all of us priveledged, (pseudo?)intellectual Americans are into.

See other reviews by Phillip Buchan

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