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AROUND THE WEB: Congrats to the Smiths, New Bob Dylan album, Whitman on Cat Stevens, New Jeremy Enigk album, Overstreet on THE CLASS, McCracken on Phoenix

1.
First of all, I must congratulate my dear, dear friends Tyler Smith and his new bride Jennifer (both, incidentally, co-conspirators at Into the Hill) on their recent wedding. It was a beautiful, moving occasion down in Florida this past weekend and I wish you both 1,000 years of bliss. Congratulations friends!

photo by bethany matesich

photo by bethany matesich

2.

Bob Dylan’s new album has a name, artwork and, best of all, a scheduled release date. Part of me wishes the album could have gone name-less and been released sans album artwork, just released as a new Dylan album left to experienced by itself, for its own sake, without the context and influence of titles or images. I suppose that would be either a wildly successful marketing strategy or one of the dumbest things any artist has ever done – at least in terms of making any money. That being said, the album, which apparently will drop on April 28th, is called Together Through Life and will be his 46th album. 46th!

That’s an astounding number and one that becomes even more astounding when you consider the quality of almost all of those efforts. Some would argue that his records in the late 80’s and early 90’s were sub par at best, but of course sub par for Dylan is a masterpiece for anyone else. But arguably his most recent work has been his best, as his ’06 release Modern Times, suggests. Lyrically, he remains as profound and relevant as ever, maintaining, as he always has, a firm grasp on that which moves the current zeitgeist, both on modern American culture at large as well as the more specific artistic culture – and yes, even more specifically, musical. Of course, there is still that ability to craft a gut-wrenching folk ballad or rockabilly foot tapper that has made him so beloved for so many years. I suppose we’ll find out for sure in about a month, but it sure seems that, even at 67, Robert Zimmerman remains one of the most important working American artists.

3.
Paste’s Andy Whitman has blogged some thoughts about the music and person of the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens. He writes:

His music arrived at the perfect time. The cockeyed optimism of the 1960s had given way to the deaths of some of music’s brightest stars, and the violent and senseless debacle of Altamont had tolled the death knell for the simplistic preachers of peace and love, man. There was a growing realization that rock stars were not only incapable of saving the world, but that they couldn’t even save themselves. Into the breach stepped Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, the newly introspective Bob Dylan. The music was quieter, more contemplative, more focused on the internal warfare of the heart.

4.


Today, in my inbox, I was delighted to receive a press release that delivered the fantastic news that one Jeremy Enigk, former frontman of Sunny Day Real Estate will be releasing a new solo album, OK Bear. The album will be released through his own label Lewis Hollow and will be available on May 12th.

You can listen to the opening track, “Mind Idea,” at Pitchfork.

An excerpt from the release (courtesy of Girlie Action Media):

From his time as lead singer of Sunny Day Real Estate and The Fire Theft to his accomplished solo career, Jeremy Enigk’s singing has had the remarkable quality of becoming more nuanced with each album he records. It’s as if each of his life experiences literally adds a new color to his voice. On his new album, OK Bear, he reminds us once again why he is credited with influencing an entire generation of song-writers.

Enigk opts for a relatively stripped-down rock aesthetic on OK Bear compared to the orchestral nature of his previous two solo albums. In this setting the dynamic qualities of his voice shine more than ever. Although fewer instruments are employed, the dramatic crescendos that are a staple of Enigk’s work are present as ever, and provide a satisfying catharsis to each and every song.

5.

Jeffrey Overstreet has reviewed Laurent Cantet’s critically acclaimed film The Class for his Through A Screen Darkly column at Christianity Today Movies. He writes:

American moviegoers have been conditioned to expect certain things from classroom movies, and The Class turns those expectations upside down. It’s refreshing in its realistic unpredictability. No standing up on the desks in tribute to the teacher. No sacrificial acts or bold stands before the school board to save a troubled student. No climactic success story. The teacher doesn’t feign any kind of cool to win their respect (and that’s good, because real-world students have powerful radar for condescension and fakery). This isn’t Mr. Marin’s Opus.

6.

Brett McCracken has seen the new film starring former-actor-now- supposed-hip-hop-artist, Joaquin Phoenix and he is raving. The film is called Two Lovers and Brett says it’s Pheonix’s best performance yet, calling it “the most engrossing, tragic, life-encompassing film character I have seen in some time.”

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