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  Listen Up! 12/12/03 Listen Up!

Friday, Dec. 12

Elbow, “Cast of Thousands,” V2 Records. This British band is in danger of being criminally ignored, too easily dismissed as a Radiohead tribute band. That’s unfair, because the only thing Elbow really shares with its more famous peers is an attention to atmosphere. Elbow makes music that wraps simple yet lovely melodies in all sorts of luscious colors. Piano tinklings, guitar shards, pounding backbeats, synthesized sonics, and treated vocal effects, all working to emphasize rather than detract from the tunes themselves. There were a couple of highpoints on their first album that I liked more, but this second record is a more consistently pleasurable one.

Sun Kil Moon, “Ghosts of the Great Highway,” Jetset Records. People swear by Mark Kozelek, as if he were some kinda genius or something. Why, oh why do they do this? I mean, now and again, in Red House Painters, he stumbled into a delightful variant of a familiar melody on a cover song – what was that Cars song he used to do? – but his originals all sound the same to me. It’s not a painful sound, I’ll admit, though Kozolek’s vocal mannerisms and wandering pitch are more to be endured than his lovely guitar strumming. He does create pretty sonic landscapes, but even though he rocks out on at least one more cut here than I’ve ever heard him do before, he doesn’t do much more than mope in them.

Richard Thompson, “Ltd. Edition Bonus CD,” Cooking Vinyl/SpinArt Records. If you buy “The Old Kit Bag,” you can get this free three-song live EP while supplies last. Of course, you know you want it. He does “Hand of Kindness” and “Put It There Pal” back in 1996, with a band that includes Danny Thompson on bass, Pete Zorn on acoustic guitar, and the incomparable Dave Mattacks on drums. Both songs feature stunning extended guitar solos from the world’s greatest player of the instrument. (I’m talking about Richard Thompson himself, in case you weren’t aware that he’s the greatest guitarist alive.) There’s also a nice live version of “Two Left Feet” recorded in March, 2003, with his old friend Christine Collister dropping in on background vocals.

--Steve Pick

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