Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New Column: Try Not to Try

Well, my new year's resolution is already falling by the wayside. I'm working like a madman to get my site up and running, and I barely had time to bang out the quick column you'll see on the front page of right now.

But bang it out I did. This week I took a look at the determinedly slight new Decemberists album, and tacked on a pair of quick takes, one of Joy Division wannabes White Lies, and the other of Portland, Maine supergroup Space vs. Speed. As always, click on over to read the column, then head back here to leave me a comment.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

First Listen: Cake, Showroom of Compassion

Showroom of Compassion is arguably 2011's first major new release. It's taken seven years for the band to put it together, and frontman John McCrea promised it would sound very different.

McCrea is a filthy liar.

This album sounds like Cake. If you liked Cake before, with their stinging guitars and chiming horns and McCrea's low-key voice, you will like this. The tempos are slower across the board - "Federal Funding" may be the most laconic opener in the band's history - but the sound is essentially untouched.

There is one standout, and that's "The Winter," which features acoustic piano for the first time on a Cake album. This is one of the finest songs McCrea and company have written, and its mournful singalong will stay with you. But it's the one moment of real evolution on an album that otherwise sounds stuck in the past. I like Cake, and I like this record about as much as any of their others, but there are no new vistas explored here, and I can't fathom why it took so long to complete.

New Column: So This Is the New Year

As long-time readers know, I'm a pretty optimistic guy when it comes to music.

That's putting it mildly, actually. My entire life is based around having things to look forward to. I scour new release calendars and band websites, looking for information on new music. I make up schedules in my head, and grasp at any information I can get - track listings, track times, producers, guest musicians. I want to love everything I hear. Even the albums I know will be crap. I buy them hoping they'll surprise me.

All that's a way of saying that if you're looking for cynicism, or rampant trashing of every album that comes down the pike, you're in the wrong place. Tuesday Morning 3 A.M. is all about loving music, and while I'm not afraid to give honest assessments of terrible records, I would much rather write about the ones I love, and am looking forward to.

So 2011's first column is in that vein. I've come up with 11 reasons to be excited about 2011, from the new Decemberists to Bright Eyes to PJ Harvey to the as-yet-untitled third Quiet Company album. It's going to be a good year, I can just feel it.

Since writing this column, another one has been announced: Okkervil River's I Am Very Far, out on May 10. It just keeps getting better. Click on over to read the column, and then head back here to leave me a comment.

...And We're Back

Hello, everyone, and welcome to 2011. This will be my eleventh year writing Tuesday Morning 3 A.M., and I'm not sure I've ever felt better about it. The fateful Year Ten has come and gone, there's amazing music on the horizon (check out the new column at for proof), and I'm excited to hear it and tell you about it.

I'm determined to make better use of this blog in 2011 than I did in 2010, as well. The last half of last year was a whirlwind, and while the opening weeks of 2011 have been similar, I plan to carve out time for my first-listen reviews, and revive the Reasons to be Cheerful feature. The blog is an important part of this conversation we're having, and I fell off the train big time last year.

I'd love this whole tm3am thing to be a two-way street. If you have thoughts, ideas, reviews of your own, or recommendations, I'd like to hear them. You can leave them in the comments under this blog, or email them to, or connect with me on Facebook ( Thanks very much for reading, you don't know what it means to me.

All right, we're ready. Year Eleven. All systems go.