The Elms call it quits.

This has not been a good week or so for me.  First, Lost is over.  I loved the Finale and I am going to really miss the show.  Then it was announced that Guillermo Del Toro has left The Hobbit.  I have been looking forward to that film for a long time and now it seems that it’s going to be an even longer wait.  Finally, this morning I read on The Elms’ website that they are calling it quits after 10 years as a band.  They are my favorite band.  Their music just speaks to me.  It works on a very basic level for me.  I’ve written a lot about them on this blog so I won’t belabor the point.  At this point I really don’t have much else to say other than to wish the band well.

Update 1:  I’ve decided that the best way to pay homage to The Elms is to listen to their music.  I’ve decided to start with The Great American Midrange, their most recent album.  My two oldest boys – 7 and 5 years old – love the song Strut.  So do I.  I recently showed them a YouTube video of the band playing that song live and they both just stood their with their mouths open.  They were simply amazed that there were real people behind the song.  After standing there for a minute they started dancing and singing.  It was a really cool memory that I will revisit often. 

So, I am currently on The Wildest Heart – track 4 – one of the most beautiful and heartfelt songs I have ever heard.  It’s simple, elegant, and totally sincere.  Most rock bands don’t have the balls to pull off something this sensitive and honest.  I will miss this side of the band. 

More to come as I continue to bask in the glow of some great music…

Update Number 2:  I have been working my way through their albums and taking some time to look a the digibook they have made available on their webiste.  Go here to see it.  Beyond seeing the great photos of the band, and reading some thoughts about some previously unreleased music, it’s just awesome to hear the songs Long Gone and A Place in the Sun as instrumentals.  Both songs work in this format and it really highlights how talented these guys were.  Beautiful stuff!

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The Top 20 Albums of the Decade. (2000 – 2009)

I have been discussing this with some friends and I figured I would post this here.  My list is very limited as I just haven’t listened to as much music this decade as in the past.  I got married in 2000 and that and my growing family has reduced the time I can spend on new music.  But, I do have a list that I am pretty happy with.  Here it is:

20.  The Decemberists – The Crane Wife (2006)
19.  Howie Day – Stop All the World Now (2004)
18.  Plankeye – Strange Exchange (2001)
17.  Hammock – Raising Your Voice Trying to Stop an Echo (2006)
16.  Patti Griffin – Children Running Through (2007)
15.  Honey – Three (2003)
14.  Monarch – Lowly (2006)
13.  Peter Gabriel – Up (2002)
12.  Bloc Party – A Weekend in the City (2007)
11.  The Elms – The Great American Midrange (2009)
10.  Coldplay – A Rush of Blood To the Head (2002)
09.  The Listening – The Listening (2006)
08.  Explosions in the Sky – The Earth is not a Cold Dead Place (2003)
07.  Jimmy Eat World – Futures (2004)
06.  Need to Breathe – The Outsiders (2009)
05.  Coldplay – Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends (2008)
04.  The Elms – The Chess Hotel (2006)
03.  Arcade Fire – Neon Bible (2007)
02.  Sigur Ros – Takk (2005)
01.  Cush – Cush (New Sound) (2000)

I might add some info about each album if I have the time but for now the list will have to suffice.  Agree? Disagree?  Think I am crazy?  All of the above?  Let me know.

Review: The Elms – The Great American Midrange

the_elms_the_great_american_midrange

The Elms – The Great American Midrange (2009)

(TRUST INC. Records)

2006 was an important year for The Elms: After four years of touring and maturing as musicians, they released their critically acclaimed third album, The Chess Hotel.  In their words, it was “loose”.  Check.  And “loud”.  Big freakin’ check.  In other words: It was no frills rock and roll and not for the faint of heart or anyone with an affinity for the pop stylings found on most hit radio stations.  And even though it wouldn’t find a home on most radios, it was welcomed with open arms by those that appreciate no-holds-barred, kick-your-teeth-in, make-you-want-to-punch-something, ROCK AND ROLL. 

 But as they say, that was then.  Today, they release their fourth album, The Great American Midrange, and while it is cut from the same cloth as The Chess Hotel, the melodic sensibilities that helped them on their second album, Truth, Soul, Rock and Roll, shine through as well.  The band has never sounded more comfortable, alternating between blistering bar room bravado, and delicate, earnest ballads.  Songwriter and lead singer Owen Thomas once again digs into the ideas that formed the thematic backbone of The Chess Hotel, and finds new faces and places to bring out in the light.  The band is small town U.S.A. and every song, in one way or another, paints a portrait of the good and bad that most Americans fully understand.  It’s happy, sad, angry, lonely, but most of all, hopeful.  But hope isn’t easy, and the band is quick to point out that whatever hope there is, it’s a fragile thing, ready to collapse if not held on to with all our might.  The great thing about The Great American Midrange is that most people won’t even notice the little truth bombs that are planted all over the album, they will just enjoy the great music.  And the band provides plenty of that with in your face rockers like the brash and catchy opener, Strut, and the toe tapping number The Shake, which transports you to some dirty roadhouse in the rough part of town.  There are plenty of melodic rockers that are instantly accessible.  I dare you to not hum along with tracks like the country rock tinged County Fair, or the fervent Back To Indiana.  The band even shows they have the ability to slow things down and take the music to a very personal and intimate place with the songs The Wildest Heart and the heartbreaking The Little Ways.  The second half of the album is stronger than the first, with the epic This is How the World Will End, the upbeat and defiant Thunderhead, and the subdued and bluesy closer A Place in the Sun.  The only song that didn’t work for me was The Good Guys, but I am more than willing to give it some more time. 

The band gives everything they have on every song.  Each member handles their respective duties.  They are greater than the sum of their parts, yet their parts are incredible.  Drummer Chris Thomas plays with intensity and passion, pounding out the rhythmic backbone like a man on a mission.  Nathan Bennett’s bass playing perfectly complements that sound, and acts as a stabilizing force for the album, and when he needs to shine, he does.  Thom Daughtery, who is one of the best young guitarists that I have heard, tackles each track like a new problem to solve.  Each song has a different sound and he shows an impressive range in playing styles.  Owen’s vocals sound good regardless of what style he is singing, whether it be aggressive rock and roll or a stripped down ballad.  He brings grit and an edge to a song if it is warranted, but he can smooth things out with a clear falsetto when something more contemplative is called for.  For some that won’t be enough since the band doesn’t really break any new ground.  If you are familiar with their style and the kind of music they craft then you have a good idea how this album will sound.  Perhaps that is a negative.  I’m not so sure.  I don’t penalize them for doing what they do best.  They stretch themselves as musicians on each album and they create music that is fun to listen to and still leaves you with a better perspective of the world.  They borrow from a variety of influences, but they make the music their own, with their own unique style and interpretation.  If you miss real, down to earth, rock bands, then look no further.  The Elms are what you have been missing all along.    

In the end, that is what The Elms are all about.  Mission accomplished.  The Great American Midrange gets 9.0 out of 10.0. 

 Download Now: This Is How the World Will End, Thunderhead, Strut, and The Wildest Heart.

The Elms is:

Owen Thomas – vocals, guitar / Christopher Thomas – drums, percussion, vocals / Thomas Daugherty – lead guitar, vocals / Nathan W. Bennett – bass guitar, vocals

2 Things I’m Looking Forward To

1.  The ElmsThe Great American Midrange.
I ordered my copy weeks ago – it releases on Tuesday, September 15th.  This is my favorite band in the world right now.  They are great live and on album.  Their music is real, honest, and flat out rocks.  Check ’em out if you haven’t heard them yet.  Go to their website: www.theelms.net to check out their music.

2.  Need To BreatheThe Outsiders.

I will picking up this CD tonight if all goes according to plan.  I’ve enjoyed their previous two efforts and am really looking forward to hearing what they have done on this one.  They blend southern, anthemic, and a little blues for their sound.  Check them out at www.needtobreathe.net.

5 Things I’m Digging Today

1.  Fielding – The Voice of Us.  It just keeps getting better every time I hear it.  There is a beautiful simplicity to it that I respond to.  It’s a very quiet and sad album, but it earns every emotion it provokes. 

2.  The Elms- This Is How the World Will End.  I’ve heard it about 30 times now ever since I downloaded it.  It’s great.  It’s powerful, anthemic, emotional.  It has everything you could ask for in a great rock anthem.  It kills in concert as well.  I can’t wait for the full album on September 15th.

3.  District 9.  Intense.  Violent.  Unexpected.  Ambitious.  If you love sci-fi, action, or an amalgm of the two, do yourself a favor and go watch it.

4.  Titans Football.  It’s back.  I have a really good feeling about this year’s team.  I’m thinking they go 12-4 or 13-3.  Watch out for Britt and Cook this year.

5.  My wife.  She is amazing.  She had to go back to work – she is a teacher – a couple of weeks ago, thereby leaving our 2 month old baby boy with a sitter.  It is very difficult for her every day to do this.  I wish we could afford for her to stay home, but it’s not in the cards right now.  She is a wonderful teacher though and I know her school would be much poorer without her presence.

The Elms – Live @ The Basement in Nashville

Since I was the only person I know with the balls to go to a 9:00 PM concert, I guess that means that I should let everyone know how it went.  First of all, The Basement is just what it sounds like: A basement in a pretty big, old house.  Not the best venue, but it was at least small enough that there were really no bad viewing spots.  The crowd was primarily singer/songwriter types, or their friends, which meant I was painfully out of my element.  Not to worry!  I shook the hand of one girl whose name I forget and she told me “We are friends now.”  I guess in her world friends only speak to each other when they need to ask for extra chairs.  She didn’t speak to me again after I told her I wasn’t saving those chairs for anyone.  I cried a little for the loss of my new friend.  Anyway….the show got started with some acoustic singer/songwriter named Mike Willis.  He was decent.  Not really my style but he had some talent and his supporting band – bass and drums – were good and he did a couple of fun songs.  He played 5 songs in total, with three being very slow numbers that almost put me to sleep in my little corner of the room.  Before his last song he said that The Elms were next and that they were going to rock our faces off.

The Elms got up after he finished and spent about 10 minutes getting their gear set up.  I could tell that Thom (guitarist) was not exactly thrilled with the sound system there.  It’s not like he was visibly annoyed, he just looked like he couldn’t find what he needed.  He finished up and took a quick conference with Owen (vocals, guitar) and Nathan (bass, vocals) and something was decided.  I’ll get to that in a minute.  They opened with This Is How the World Will End and the crowd, which had been very sparse for the first guy, had really filled in and become real quiet.  They used a long opening for the song that is not on the album version and it was really cool.  I think they used it as a chance to make sure the sound was ok, but it also set the mood for their set.  They knocked the song out of the park, and the background vocals were the best I’ve ever heard from them.  Nathan was really singing his heart out for the harmony parts.  Once they finished that song someone in the back yelled out “You guys f****** rock!”  Owen laughed and said, “This is The Elms unplugged…at least almost.”  I could tell the sound was really geared down for the show, and that comment confirmed it.  They were not able to bring their full sound to this venue, but it really didn’t hurt the show.  It just gave them a chance to improvise a bit and do a few different things.

They continued the set with Nothing To Do With Love, which flat out rocked.  At the close of the song, Owen started playing the main guitar part again, but slower.  No one else in the band was playing, they just were looking at him with slightly amused looks on their faces.  Owen kept playing and turned to the drummer – Chris – told him something, and then Chris and Nathan joined in with the slower tempo.  Thom picked right up and they jammed for another 2 or 3 minutes liked that.  It came across as very unplanned, just a band having fun, but it sounded awesome.  I’m betting they do it in future shows.  They then jumped into a new one Back To Indiana.  If you have seen them live, you have probably heard this one.  It’s a cool up-tempo song which sounded great in the slightly stripped down version.  County Fair, a new song, was next.  I have heard bits and pieces of this song online, but never the whole thing.  It’s a cool little number and it’s also a nice chance of pace.  It’s relatively happy, but the lyrics do have some bittersweet moments.  The song itself is peppy and reminds me of Tom Petty.  They closed with The Way I Will off The Chess Hotel.  They did another improvised “reprise” after this one as well which brought the house down.  Chris was insane on the drums!

Overall, I was very pleased with the show.  I would have loved to hear this exact set in a better sounding venue – at least with the full sound the band usually brings, but I won’t complain.  It was a little different and made the experience cool.  The people at the show were really into the set and kept yelling for more songs.  I talked to quite a few people that were sitting near me before the shows started and asked who they were there to hear.  None of them had ever heard of The Elms before that night.  By the end of the show, those same people were looking at each other with wide eyes saying things like, “Man that was awesome!  Those guys rocked!”  Stuff like that.  Needless to say, everyone was impressed.   That’s what the band does.  They come and they rock.  No frills.  No gimmicks.  Just rock and roll.  They bring it every time.

The Elms: New Single and The Indy 500

Here is the press release:

THE ELMS are pleased to announce that their brand-new single, “Back To Indiana”, will have its official U.S. premiere this Sunday May 24 on ABC during the national television broadcast of the Indianapolis 500 race! Race begins at 1pm EST! Don’t miss it! The race will also air on ESPN and Vs. networks.

Also, you can get a free Download of the first single right here.

The new album is set to be released on August 25th of this year.  I can’t wait.