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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
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
My Morning Jacket / Songs:Ohia
Split CDep
Jade Tree Records

Rating: NR/10 ?

October 1, 2004
EPs can be something akin to the evilest little redheaded stepchildren ever imagined. Many of them are so "John Ritter" that as a reviewer, I hate to see them show up on my doorstep. Quite often, they are comprised of crummy, second rate material from a band's "I wish we could forget these existed" vault and are being issued only to take advantage of the poor, yet devoted fans who will rabidly eat up anything with a given groups logo attached to the front and spine. Split EPs are an even more dangerous proposition, rarely raising the bar above being anything more than a simple marketing stunt where one band gets picked to ride the coattails of another band's hype and popularity, or allowing two bands of similar stature to attempt to cross-pollinate each others' fan base. That this EP comes to us from Jade Tree, the unabashed and persistent proponent of all things "emo-tacular", that we critics love oh so much to bludgeon with our verbal billy clubs, gives this disc an even greater chance at failure. Couple that with the fact that their website and my internet browser don't seem to want to get along when I begin my search for extra information there, and that pretty much has me in the mood to shoot this release straight to hell, but I just can't do it because, like it or not, this disc is damn impressive.

My Morning Jacket is going to be huge, kids, so go ahead and get hip with them now. They start the EP off with "O Is the One That Is Real". This subtle tune grows remarkably intense by its apex thanks to drummer J. Glenn who pounds out a great beat and never lets it get stagnant. He often throws the backbeat into double time and syncopates it with a wondrous fluidity. The guitar line worms its way up the scale, and before you know it, you're hooked. Though these elements are the backbone of the My Morning Jacket stratagem for success, the first thing that is going to strike anyone upon their initial listen to this band is singer Jim James voice. Beautiful, plaintive, forlorn and inviting, his crooning lures you in the same manner that a siren snags a wayward, star-crossed sailor. The next track, "How Do You Know" sounds like a Mercury Rev outtake that should have made their last record. The moaning voices lull you away, only to be awakened by the stark vocal melody, tinkling piano, and sparse arrangement that dominates the verse. Then "Come Closer", My Morning Jacket's final contribution to the disc is a ballad that tries its hand at sweeping the listener off his feet. The piano dominates the foreground this time as James' voice tries to hide away, but ends up only making you crave it and work that much harder to absorb its mourning timbre.

With the bases loaded, Jason Molina's songwriting outlet, Songs:Ohia, steps up to the plate. It would appear he is also facing a 3-2 count when a quick glance at the track listing reveals that "Be Your Own Guide" is his only contribution to the EP. Molina delivers with a shot over the left field fence though; "Be Your Own Guide" is a meaty ten-minute chunk of sparsely arranged guitar, bass, and ambling percussion that any fan of Molina's back-catalogue will certainly be proud of. It may even convert some new fans in the process. It should be noted that some of the credit for pulling the ambitious track off can be given to the "unnamed", but supposedly all-star backing band of Drag City recording artist who flesh out the rest of the sound. Further investigation suggests that some of these boys might be Kentucky gentlemen to whom Molina's work sounds quite similar, who go by the last name of Oldham.

There is a reason Jade Tree hasn't gone the way of the dinosaur like many other easily stereotyped record labels. It's because they continue to put out some of the better records of the genre that my critical lips refuse to speak, and because of surprisingly wonderful must-have discs featuring collaborations between bands like My Morning Jacket and Songs:Ohia. This is the third release in Jade Tree's split EP series, so let's all keep our fingers crossed that the quality level of future releases will continue to astound as this one does.

Reviewed by Mark Skipper
Mark Skipper currently resides in Nashville, TN where he can be found skipping shows, drinking Guinness, making bad home recordings, and complaining about how much music sucks these days.

See other reviews by Mark Skipper



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