You Think It’s Like This but It’s Really Like This
(Double Double Whammy *** 1/2)
Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn grew up in Bala Cynwyd, and then she went to school at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. — as did feminist rockers Kathleen Hanna, Courtney Love, and two thirds of Sleater-Kinney — so she’s closely associated with the Pacific Northwest indie-pop sound of the early 2000s.
She recorded four albums there for K Records, working with multi-instrumentalist producer Phil Elverum. These near-perfect marriages of smart, confessional songwriting and warmly inventive arrangements were all deeply personal.
You Think It’s Like This, released in 2000, was the first of them, and this auspicious debut is now getting a well-deserved rerelease, with a bonus: a full-length tribute album in which 16 artists, including Elverum (as Mount Eerie), cover Mirah’s songs.
The songs are startlingly good and have stood the test of time. That goes for everything from the clattering “Gone Sugaring,” about a family outing tapping trees for maple syrup in the wilds of Pennsylvania to the risque “Murphy Bed” about space-saving furniture that’s useful for sleeping, among other things.
Mirah’s musical range is impressive, as is her influence on a new generation of unabashedly vulnerable songwriters. Several of them who have Philly connections make standout contributions here.
Allison Crutchfield of Swearin’ turns in an unadorned “La Familia,” asking the eternal question, “If we sleep together, would it make it any better?” Sadie Dupuis, performing under her Sad13 solo stage name, delivers a fraught “This Dance.” Shamir’s fragile “Pollen” is heartbreaking.
— Dan DeLuca
For a decade in the early 2000s, Kathleen Edwards released four acclaimed albums of emotionally forthright, rootsy songs. But after touring for 2012′s Voyageur, Edwards soured on her music career and opened a coffee shop and café in the small Canadian town of Stittsville, Ottawa.
The aptly named Quitters has been successful, but Edwards eventually found herself missing writing and performing, and now she returns with Total Freedom, an album about recalibrating and starting anew.
Edwards ruminates on the end of relationships, on how feelings fade, on aging and keeping options open, on the freedom of isolation. The tone, even when colored with regret, is mostly optimistic. The arrangements focus on acoustic guitars, with reverb-soaked electric leads.
Like Rosanne Cash, Edwards sings with a clear-eyed sincerity and a comforting steadiness, whether on sober ballads like “Ashes to Ashes” and “Birds of a Feather” or on the gently rocking “Hard on Everyone” and “Options Open.”
On the opener, “Glenfern,” Edwards recounts her past: “We bought a rock-and-roll dream; it was total crap. / We toured the world and we played on TV. / We met some of our heroes. / It almost killed me. / And I will always be thankful for it.”
We can be thankful that she has reevaluated, and reactivated, her rock-and-roll dream.
— Steve Klinge
Hot Country Knights
The K Is Silent
Remember the Hot Country Knights? Big in the ’90s? Of course you don’t. The band is a new creation by country star Dierks Bentley and some of his Nashville musician pals. With The K Is Silent, they deliver a hilarious send-up of bro-country cliches. It’s the Spinal Tap of country music.
There is plenty of macho country rock, of course, starting with the theme-setting “Hot Country Knights,” and Travis Tritt joins the fun for “Pick Her Up” (“in a pickup truck,” naturally). The Knights also attempt to start a new dance craze with “Moose Knuckle Shuffle.”
Country hunks always like to show they have a sensitive side, so the Knights serve up some earnest balladry, too. “Mull It Over” is a romantic plea couched in allusions to a popular ’90s male hairstyle (“I swear I’ll love you longer than the hair on my shoulder”). “Asphalt” is the confession of a rambler obsessed with women’s backsides.
No country act of this stripe could leave without a ridiculously over-the-top display of patriotic fervor, and the Knights oblige with the faux-live sing-along, “The USA Begins With US.”