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 » 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
Eleni Mandell
Afternoon
Zedtone

Rating: 8.5/10 ?


October 1, 2004
It's getting late at the U.S.O. and the bartender wants to go home. On a dance floor strewn with balloons and red-white-and-blue streamers, a navy officer who's about to go overseas to fight the Germans slow dances with a girl he'll one day marry, that is if he ever makes it back alive. Eleni Mandell knows what's on her mind. At that moment, all she can think about is how in love she is, how she wishes this moment would last forever and more importantly, how she can't stand the thought that she may never seem him again.
Mandell is also in love with an "American Boy." It's the first song off her most recent album, Afternoon, and she writes that together they have "Shallow pockets, darkened eyes and heavy hearts and coats." That song, with its swaying 40s jazz melody, its flickering strokes of electric guitar light and the mournful nuances in Mandell's voice, seems lost in time and captures the mood of anxiety-filled wartime partings, such as the one described above.
In fact, Afternoon is one of those vintage-sounding records that should be listened to on a wood-paneled radio console or an old-fashioned phonography. It sounds something you'd find in a stack of old albums locked away in a chest in your grandparents' attic, along with a cache of love letters and a whole lot of memories. Mandell's music transcends time and after spending a hour or two with it, you'll wonder, "Where have you been all my life, Eleni Mandell?"
She's got the same barfly-philosopher bent of a Tom Waits, without the junkyard instrumentation and evil carnival atmosphere. "Just A Dream" tells of someone betrayed by her own imagination, someone lost in a fantasy of a torrid affair that in reality wasn't nearly as hot as she wished. The smouldering organ and writhing bass serve as a backdrop for Mandell's yearning narrative. The tale and the telling of it, as well as the smoky musical stylings, evoke the spirit of Nick Cave.
Elsewhere, dew practically drips off sunny country melodies that rock like the creaky porch swing of a house on a shady lane somewhere in small-town America. But when the sun goes down, the sweet innocence of Afternoon turns dark with desire and Mandell becomes the sultry torch singer with a checkered past, backed by a band playing seedy noir-ish jazz. Mandell is living a double life on Afternoon and the romantic intrigue sucks you in.
In the song of the same name, Mandell pleads with the man who mistreats her, "Can't you see I'm soulful?" You'd have to be blind and deaf, since we are talking about a record here not to. Delicately brushed drums and elegantly played electric guitar are steeped in a bluesy kind of country that Mandell seductively strokes with her expressive, pained voice like a modern-day Patsy Cline. The break-up song "Say Goodbye" works the same blues-painted side of the street, with Mandell's singing adopting a sexy swagger to hide the awful realization that "It's down to the time when we both know/One has to worry and one has to let it go." Mandell has, and you should too. Life's too short to dwell on old wounds.
And so, Mandell runs off and has an affair in the tawdry title track, a playful, star-spangled country raveup about what "the other woman" has to give up the mornings waking up next to each other, tuck each other in at night and sharing lunches to satisfy his cheating, lustful heart. Sometimes Mandell needs to get away from it all, which she does in "Let's Drive Away", a bright, bouncy ode to hitting the road and escaping from wherever you are to where the grass is greener, then finding out it isn't. Mandell doesn't stay in one place too long. In "Sun's Always Shining (In Rome)", she imagines a man from Munich coming to meet her at the Coliseum and belts out the love-starved lyrics with all the anguished, but hopeful expression of Billie Holiday as lonesome jazz guitar plays in the background.
And so here's a salute to Afternoon and all its rich, vintage musical pageantry. Please don't forget to tip the players in Mandell's band, who perform with such dexterity and touch, and are so in tune with Mandell's vocal moods and stylings that you'd believe they really are the American boys Mandell is so in love with. I'm glad I've gotten to know her, at least as much as you can from one album. Come back soon now, you hear?

Reviewed by Peter Lindblad
Peter Lindblad lives in Appleton, Wis., and bleeds green and gold just like all the Packer fan nutjobs in the area. He does draw the line at wearing blocks of chedder on his head, or any other body parts for that matter, though. His professional career has taken weird twists and turns that have led him to his current position as an editor at a coin magazine. He hopes his stay there will be a short one. Before that, he worked as an associate editor at a log home magazine. To anyone that will listen, he\'ll swear that Shiner was one of the greatest rock bands to ever walk the earth. Yet he also has much love for Superchunk, Spoon, DJ Shadow, Swervedriver, Wilco, Fugazi, Jawbox, ... And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Queens Of The Stone Age, and Modest Mouse, among others.

See other reviews by Peter Lindblad

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