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About a month ago I got a Matthew Perryman Jones recording called Throwing Punches In The Dark. I am totally hooked on it right now. In fact, it’s probably my current favorite. Slow, vibey ballads and fast, assertive rock tunes… and all with thoughtfully artistic production. Jeff Buckley meets Sondre Lerche with a little Wilco. Love it.

Jones is a Nashville-based singer/songwriter with a folk-rock bent. From what I understand, Throwing Punches is a little less folk and a little more rock than his previous albums, of which I am not familiar. Regardless, the record delivers clear elements of both folk and rock, and manages to include solid lyrical content as well. You get the impression that Jones has seen a lot of life, but has found a way to make it all positive.

Andy Hubbard is the drummer on the record and another Nashville guy, but I’ve not heard him before. He totally nails the folk-rock vibe, both with feel and tones. His vocabulary in grooves and fills is A-squad for Jones’ sound, and every tune has a killer snare tone. The most interesting sounds come from his hats, which I can’t quite pin down. I think he must be using old crash cymbals with tape all over them or something.

I’ve definitely mentioned noisetrade.com before, and this is one of the records that I got from there. It’s still available on that site, so you really have no excuse to not add Matthew Perryman Jones’ Throwing Punches In The Dark to your itunes library right now.

The pick for the third installment of Album of the Week is Haley Bonar’s new record, Big Star. Haley is a friend of mine from the music scene in Minneapolis, and the rest of the band members on this recording are also Minneapolis musicians: Dave King on drums (my former teacher), Bill Mike on guitars (from the Bill Mike Band), and Chris Morrissey on bass/vocals (also from the Bill Mike Band). BUT, Big Star isn’t the new Album of the Week just because the musicians are my friends. It is a truly incredible record.

The music follows a standard folk formula, with the typical focus on song writing and melody, but includes sonic landscaping reminiscent of Death Cab meets Fiona Apple. The record was tracked at Pachyderm Studios and mixed by the world-renowned Tchad Blake, which keeps the quality from sounding sub-par or “indie” (even though the entire production was managed on just a small percentage of a major label budget). The “indie” spirit and creativity is still present, however. And then, sitting comfortably on top of all of this, is Haley’s voice, which is one of the most unique-yet-soothing female vocal that I have ever heard.

The readers of this blog that are familiar with Dave King and the rest of his discography will be blown away by the way King is able to retain his personality on the drum set while still serving the music of a folk record. His feel is of course incredible, but the real magic of King’s playing on Big Star is the approach and treatment that he gives to each tune. At no point does he infringe on the style of the music, and yet almost every track contains unique and forward-thinking ideas for folk drumming.

Everyone should at the very least go visit Haley’s Myspace page and listen to a couple of the tracks, and you can also find info there on her tour dates and other happenings.

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