Posts Tagged ‘Tim Cohen’

The Fresh & Onlys

Time sneaks up on you in funny ways. It seems like the age in which Fresh & Only constantly had another single, EP or album kicking around the corner was just a moment ago, and then the calendar reminds you it’s been three years since their last release. Now the interim has been stocked with sidepiece sendups from both of the core members, but there’s something to the spark in the room when Tim Cohen and Wymond Miles get together. They bounce ebullience through experience to recapture the immediacy of their early work, then balance it with the sophistication and nuance of their last two records.

Following Long Slow Dance’s heightened pop realty – a dose of literate rock shot through with dashes of new wave sheen, pulsating under the PAR cans in true rock glory – they doused themselves in a shroud of atmosphere for House of Spirits. The cloud shaded in the crevices of their often craggy creations and it tended to sand smooth some of the splinters that stuck hardest with the listener. For the most part, they drop the curtain of gauze for Wolf Lie Down, creating an album that’s neither pop perfection nor ephemeral puzzle. Instead it’s the band working their rawest nerves with a grace that embraces their years behind the microphones and in front of constant expectations.

They hang the album on their strongest single in a very long time, the blistering “Impossible Man,” a song that’s as close to the nerve of indie rock’s promise as you’re likely to get. It’s a huge hook, bigger than they’ve mounted since the Long Slow Dance era, but tracked with the grit of their early one-off singles. Part of me wishes that they’d gone all in on this aesthetic for an album. While I love the philandering aesthete visions that round out the rest of the album – the ghost town growl of “Becomings,” the Sunday slink of “Walking Blues,” and the hallelujah haze of “Qualm of Innocence” – it’s the fire I’m craving. Between the title track and “Impossible Man” there exists a promise of bombast waiting to happen, an explosion muted by good intentions, but muted nonetheless. I want them to loosen the spines of their literate tendencies and just embrace the power line hooks that lie in wait inside them. If it takes another three years, I’ll be here. I’m a patient soul.




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The Fresh & Onlys – “Impossible Man”

Stripping down to their core for this record, Tim Cohen and Wymond Miles continue to be consistent muses to each other, pushing their collaborative work harder than ever before. The latest single off of their upcoming Wolf Lie Down is one of their most driving and insistent songs in a long time. The band’s always benefited from framing Cohen’s lyrics in a lush backdrop of Miles’ alt-psych, making them heir apparent to the College Rock kingdom. As they grew legs, they pushed their sound out of the garage roots that birthed them and ventured well into lusher pastures, leaving their last album, House of Spirits, awash in a tangle of textures. Now, they return to a bit of the bite that anchored Long Slow Dance, bringing along the lessons learned and lived on Spirits. This one reminds me of the gnarled version of “Vanishing Cream” from the band’s excellent single on Plastic Spoons (a gem if you find one to pick up). Suffice it to say that, in that respect, “Impossible Man” ranks as one of the band’s most enduring hooks and a peek at what feels like a real jump forward for the veteran band.


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Earth Girl Helen Brown – “Earth Elevator”

An excellent bout of cosmic country from the always mercurial Earth Girl Helen Brown. The album this time around features quite a few familiar names – Emmett Kelley, Sonny Smith, Ty Segall, John Dwyer, Tim Cohen, and more. Simple and straightforward, “Earth Elevator” is a bittersweet romp with vocals of Heidi Alexander ringing sweet and low in your ears, a bit of twang and the barroom shuffle of drums her only companion. Better yet, proceeds from this and Alexander’s forthcoming seasonal installments will all benefit organizations of worth (this one goes towards 350.org, NDRC, Stand-LA). An all around charming start to the week to be sure.



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Tim Cohen

Tim Cohen is a prolific voice in the American lexicon of indie rock. Tell me I’m wrong and I’ll slap you twice. Between his output in Fresh & Onlys, solo, and as Magic Trick he’s pretty much always got something dropping on your doormat and the stark reality is that its rarely not worth a tug at your ear. On his latest under his own name, the first time he’s operating as such since 2010, he’s side-stepping his usual pop hangouts once again. The last time he donned his own name and threw it on the marquee of an album cover was for Captured Tracks’ Laugh Tracks, an album that became a springboard into his output as Magic Trick. As that band has taken on its own humid life, it seems that his given name is the preferred moniker for tonal temerity.

On Luck Man he doesn’t take on his usual pop pastures of love, fate, and loss, instead enacting a series of character sketches that take on odd diorama lives of their own. Its a move that could seem like it might invite a discordant album, but Cohen, being Cohen isn’t a typical pop purveyor and his idiosyncrasies have always been the heart of his songwriting. He’s able to lasso the three a.m. anxieties and empty belly feelings and grind them into the kind of satisfying sonic sausage that other songwriters would fumble with self-importance. The songs inhabit lives of their own, still imbued with Cohen’s moody musical sea changes, but hanging their through line on the gnawing raw nerve of bruised confidence amid stark surroundings. Cohen proves that whichever name he puts at the top, the listener is in for a dose of darkness served with just the right ripple of earworm vibes.


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Magic Trick

I’ve always loved that Magic Trick is Tim Cohen’s outlet to go full 70’s Tim Buckley. To wander down Gene Clark roadways and flesh out his troubadorisms outside of the bounds and expectations of The Fresh & Onlys. His voice has the easy, mellifluous quality that lends itself to his payday jangle-pop; but its just as comfortable in a dusted blazer, strumming songs alone in a smoke cloud, center studio to be augmented with all manner of accoutrements in post. Fresh & Onlys is a push-pull between Cohen’s gravitas and Wymond Miles’ furrowed tension, but left to their own devices they’re able to amp up their strengths, as is evident with Miles’ stunning turn earlier this year. In his own right Cohen lets Other Man’s Blues shine as a darker corner of his songwriting, feeling far from breezy, the album is interested more in creating a collective enviornment that utilizes the studio as process and as partner.

The album benefits from a huge, rotating cast of players, as Cohen holed up for a week with Phil Manley but invited plenty of friends to drop by and shape the record. The result is less slap/dash than it its the culmination of several secret weapons all converging as one to give Cohen’s songs wings. James Barone (Beach House) and Alicia Van Heuvel (Aislers Set) turn in time and studio Swiss Army knife Emmett Kelly (The Cairo Gang / The Muggers) rears his head as well. The album certainly doesn’t come off as something that went into recording open-ended, but the collaborative spirit gives Other Man’s Blues that right sense of drinking-til-dawn-to-find-the-song that gave life to those 70′ hallmarks of excess turned brilliance. Cohen may have only spent a week hammering out the cramps on Other Man’s Blues but the mindset of month long jaunts and nights spent ’til dawn in the live room take root here, making it feel like someone lost a fortune for us to all find hope in its arms. Even if that’s not the case, the record’s still bigger sounding than most living rooms, cars or headphones can hope to contain and for that I’m grateful.



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