Monday, June 11, 2007

Three solo artists - Diamond Jim, Trevor Childs and Herman Jolly - team up as The Bedroom Trio, a triad of unique albums with interconnected threads.

What does a Frank Black type of esoteric backwoods - New-Wave songwriter, a Jim O'Rourke - meets - Daniel Lanois producer / songwriter and a Bay Area Sufjan Stevens - meets - Bill Hicks musician have in common? The three disparate artists, who are also longtime friends and collaborators, comprise The Bedroom Trio.

The Bedroom Trio is not a band. It's a group of solo artists collectively spearheading its own genre called “bedroom music” -- the sound of home recording fanatics, songwriters working casually at home crafting songs more confessional, more genuine and generally more creatively adorned and arranged than typical “lo-fi” or whatever other categories are employed to ghettoize indie solo artists. And, while the Bedroom Trio's members each have very different musical styles from one another, they all share a common dedication to craft. Being released simultaneously this month under the Bedroom Trio banner are albums from Diamond Jim, Trevor Childs and Herman Jolly. Listen to tracks from each album HERE.

Diamond Jim is the nom-de-tune of Bay Area producer/songwriter Jim Greer, also of The Rondo Brothers. Having released three records under his own name, and worked as a session player and songwriter on a variety of other records (Galactic's Ruckus, Handsome Boy Modeling School, Head Automatica, MC Lars, Scissors For Lefty, and more), Diamond Jim decided it was time to go undercover. Big Bad Beautiful Dreams is Diamond Jim's fourth album crisscrossing styles and touchstones ranging from Air to Alex Chilton to Stereolab.

Greer clearly was under the spell of his muse for all these things -- and as an accomplished producer, he was able to let some songs go as a live take, while others are created clearly at the hands of a skilled producer. Kicking off with a quirky instrumental “Pretty Little Zombies All In A Row”, the record then launches hard with “Little Heartbreaker”, a driving rock song that recalls Blur, Tom Petty, and ELO at the same time. Clever arrangements, universal themes and John Lennon influences abound. Songs recorded live like “Duck, Little One” and “Save Me” are classic piano ballads with universal themes and no studio trickery to fill in the gaps. But, tracks like “Walk You Home” and “Under a Half Moon” incorporate Greer's ability to bring out the best in a song through production that recalls Air, Beck and Stereolab. Instrumentals are featured as well: the trip-hop jam “Wash It Out,” recorded live at Tiny Telephone studios in San Francisco with a 10 piece band and “House Made of Dawn” is an ode to early 70's film music blended with an off-kilter big beat and creepy slide guitar. Guest appearances from vocalists Herman Jolly, Latrice Barnett and actor Pedro Shanahan round out the record making it Diamond Jim's expressionist, multi-influenced masterpiece.

Trevor Childs' Terrified album is equally the product of working without interlopers, where the Oakland, CA songwriter spits forth social commentary with the humor and vitriol of Bill Hicks and Lenny Bruce set to the sounds of antique folk-pop like The Turtles and someone named Bob Zimmerman. His love of The Zombies, Beach Boys, Syd Barrett and other late 60's pop artists shines through, but is also paired with some good old fashioned Berkeley liberalism and an overall sense of witty outrage and insight. The album opens with the title track (MP3), in which Childs sneers, “anybody who's got God on their side, makes me terrified.” Watch the YouTube featured video for the track “Deathwish” HERE.

Those familiar with Bay Area wunderband The Lovemakers already knows a little bit about Trevor Childs. Before The Lovemakers, Scott Blonde had a band called Applesaucer, which was led by Blonde and co-songwriter Childs. Applesaucer was well known in the Bay Area for its huge live sound and ripping live shows, and before its untimely demise played regular gigs at Slim's, the Fillmore and other respected local venues. Ultimately calling it quits, both Blonde and Childs went on to make music on their own terms: Blonde formed The Lovemakers, signed with Interscope and brought 80's pop music back with a hit record, and Childs hunkered down in his studio to write songs and record on his own time. Both very talented, they affected each other - The Lovemakers definitely took a little bit of Trevor Childs with them, and Trevor definitely learned a thing or two from Scott Blondes' top notch hook writing abilities.

Herman Jolly is a Pacific Northwest native and major label music machine renegade whose Bunker Life album is a compact collection of clever wordplay, skilled-yet-simple song craft rife with emotional render. Having had his taste of the big time with his band Sunset Valley back in the late 90's, headlining big shows and living the rock star life got tiresome for Jolly and he moved to Montana with his wife and child, as any authentic backwoods type would do. Settling down there e continued to make records and release them at his own pace, occasionally regrouping with Sunset Valley for a show or new recording here and there, Jolly knew that the music business would welcome him back when he was ready, and it has.

Known for his skill with wordplay, Jolly is relentlessly good at it and will always leave you with a gem or to think about long after you heard the song. Bunker Life is an interesting record in that Jolly can't keep the New Wave element out of his music -- the early Elvis Costello, The Pixies -- but as a “bedroom” record those influences are coming through in a sort of lo-fi way, a distorted microphone, a dirty guitar, but direct pop songs coming through loud and clear.

During the golden age of Sunset Valley, Jolly released two albums under his own name. The songs spanned from sparse, haunting alt-country to heavy pop. It was clear that he could not keep up with his own writing anymore; dozens of four-track demos during this period never made it to the many records that were actually released. Armed with a boatload of new tunes and a certain retinal fire, Jolly has returned to the great Pacific Northwest, this time to Seattle. The lost album from that lost weekend, Bunker Life is due out this month. He has joined forces with long time friends, bassist Grant Badger and drummer Rob Lloyd, and northwest gigs are becoming more and more frequent, as well as new material being rehearsed for upcoming studio dates. Jolly's new band lends a certain gentle power to some of the songs that were lost in the atmosphere when performed alone with an acoustic guitar, making some of the rock songs become more plausible as live performances.

Diamond Jim – Big Bad Beautiful Dreams Tracklisting:
01. Pretty Little Zombies All In A Row (MP3)
02. Little Heartbreaker (MP3)
03. China Hill
04. Duck Little One
05. Under A Half Moon
06. Wash It Out
07. Falcon To Friend
08. Walk You Home
09. Broke A Lover
10. I Can Hear You Laughing
11. A House Made of Dawn
12. Save Me

Trevor Childs – Terrified Tracklisting:
01. Terrified (MP3)
02. Don’t Get Old (MP3)
03. Deathwish (VIDEO)
04. Get Real Gone
05. Golden Arches
06. Mass. Wind
07. Wondering Song
08. This Modern World
09. Freeway Radio
10. Teacher’s Pet
11. Just Close Your Eyes
12. Pray
13. Eskimo

Herman Jolly – Bunker Life Tracklisting:
01. Key On A Kite (MP3)
02. 1,000,000 Feet Below (MP3)
03. Negative Blues
04. Sewer Train
05. Yesterday
06. Glowing Wires
07. Days Are Long
08. Candy Stairs (VIDEO)
09. Get Dizzy
10. Captainette

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