Sonic Reducer

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He may have once labored in a Maine shoe factory, but Ray LaMontagne has had no trouble trading his hammer for a six-string. LaMontagne provoked us with his debut Trouble in 2004, but Gossip In The Grain grinds into the soul, smooth and delicate. Folky roots kindle his organic rasp with a bluesy essence. The latest installment of late-blooming pop-folk reaches for a promised land where Stephen Stills and Van Morrison once stood. (JH)

Dark Dark Dark The Snow Magic (Supply and Demand)

The Snow Magic tells the story of two rolling stones who come up against frightening creatures and live to groan about it. With boy/girl vocals, accordion, banjo, stand-up bass and a touch of drums, Dark Dark Dark’s Eastern European-Americana is strange but slightly familiar. The often waltzy, not-quite danceable rhythm demands more than head-nodding. Sterile and poignant, the battles between good and evil are played out lyrically and in the plunging and climbing dynamics that push the songs swiftly to their destination. The Snow Magic is the perfect accompaniment to your next ghost story. (SM)

Chad VanGaalen Soft Airplane (Sub Pop)

It gets me down when solo artists use their actual names rather than noms de guerre. Especially when they are hard to remember or difficult to say. But that’s OK, Chad VanGaalen; the beauty and optimistic melancholy of your music (and your delightful animation and illustrations) more than make up for it. I also very much enjoy your voice, and the fact that you are from Calgary. So anyway, thank you for Soft Airplane , especially the songs "Poisonous Heads" and "Old Man + The Sea." Those are my favorites on the album, though I genuinely like them all. Also, I think you are one of the most talented artists of our time. (JCC)

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