Staff Trax: Black Mountain, of Montreal, Miranda Lambert, Rhys Chatham, Daniel Lanois & Bambi Lee Savage, Grinderman

Welcome to Staff Trax, the weekly feature here on DC9 where we shed some light on the music we've been enjoying of late, regardless of the touring or album release schedules that tend to bear the focus of most of our coverage. Consider it a chance for you readers to get some more insight into our own personal tastes. Maybe you'll find something good.

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Black Mountain -- "Old Fangs"


Lots of great stuff was released this week: new albums by Superchunk, The Black Angels, Grinderman and the Walkmen have each occupied quality time in my home or car players. But another new album that I've listened to a little bit more? Black Mountain's Wilderness Heart. Sounding less like Animals and more like Led Zeppelin III and Physical Graffiti, I admire the band for sounding like a great modern take on '70s rock instead of a bad retread. Maybe the key ingredient is Amber Webber's vocals, which sometimes take the lead here. Maybe it's thick drumming or the melodic quality of the songs that shine through. I don't know, but it's quite a stunner of an album. And this song, "Old Fangs," is a great example of what the album has to offer. --Eric Grubbs

of Montreal -- "Sex Karma"


Although of Montreal just released its tenth album yesterday, I've been fortunate to have had my hands on for about a week now. And that's given me enough time to start picking it apart and digesting it. I didn't have any concrete, pre-listen expectations for False Priest, as I'd managed to avoid reading any reviews. The only preview I had of the album was the band's first single "Coquet Coquette," which they played at their show here in Dallas, and, to be honest, the song didn't (and still doesn't) do much for me. Fortunately, the rest of the album in an entirely different story. Each song weaves its own unique sonic tapestry, and while I'm unable pick a favorite track, a few have been stuck on repeat in my brain. One of those is the above "Sex Karma," an adorable, catchy little ditty. --Catherine Downes

Miranda Lambert -- "White Liar"


Recently, I've used this platform to highlight a few artists that live in the country mainstream that somehow manage to produce high-quality records, even if they appeal to the masses--which, in country music, typically means that it sucks. East Texas native Miranda Lambert has just racked up a record number of CMA nominations, but don't let that scare you away, jaded hipsters. The album that has earned her such love from the Nashville establishment, Revolution, was one of the best albums of 2009, regardless of genre or format. This polished but ornery collection is a gun loaded with bullets that can kill in a variety of ways. From stone-cold country and rocker-chick punk, to songs that were self-penned and one even written by Canadian bad-ass, Fred Eaglesmith, this is modern country from its finest female gunslinger. --Kelly Dearmore

Rhys Chatham -- "Die Donnergotter"


Years after I became a fan of Sonic Youth, a friend suggested I take a listen to avant-garde, minimalist composer Rhys Chatham. The only thing I could find at the local record store was Die Donnergotter (that's The Thunder Gods for those not fluent in German). Seems that members of Sonic Youth and Band of Susans had started out as players in Chatham's infamous guitar armies. These huge ensembles (100 to 300 guitars and other assorted instrumentation) would play Chatham's lengthy pieces in any place that was large enough to accommodate them. Anyhow, the title track may be labeled as neo-classical by some, but one listen ought to convince even the toughest of skeptics. Chatham's impressive back catalogue falls in and out of print, but the Nonesuch label just released an impressive 2008 performance of Chatham's A Crimson Grail, which features 200 guitars with amps all turned up to 11. --Darryl Smyers


Ah, the clever, seemingly effortless brilliance of Daniel Lanois. "Darlin'" sounds like it was written on the fly, but it's the simplicity of it that also makes it gorgeous. It's from Sling Blade, during an undeniably touching moment in Carl's life that was just as likely to have never happened to him before, as it is that such an encounter will never happen to him again. --Alan Ayo

Grinderman -- "No Pussy Blues"


I think Nick Cave is beyond pretty great. I never saw the movie The Road, but there is a simple, achingly beautiful song called "The Road" from the movie's soundtrack. Penned by Nick and his long time collaborator Warren Ellis (for whom I have serious beard envy), I have probably listened to it 100 times this year. In related news, there's a new release from their more raw Grinderman project, and this song from the last Grinderman album is about an entirely different kind of ache. --Doug Davis

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