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AMERICAN DUST

The return of classic, progressive pop heralded by The Shins, Beulah, Ted Leo, and the Pernice Brothers has produced many followers. But too often today's young, literate power-pop groups simply meet the expectations of their genre without exceeding them. A great guitar-pop band needs to add something special to the canon; the line must be straddled where a song remains universal, while offering inspired innovations from within. The Bye Bye Blackbirds are a great guitar-pop band. On their debut full-length, the band creates a powerful testament to pop music's capacity for depth, beauty, and expressiveness. Boasting multiple songwriters, each with his own style, the group draws easy comparisons to Big Star, Teenage Fanclub, and Buffalo Springfield.

Matt Baldwin

Paths Of Ignition

One of the more unexpected - if worthwhile - by products of the 21st-century underground American folk revival is a renewed interest in solo acoustic guitar music. Spare, haunting, pastoral sounds have struck a new chord, and the names John Fahey and Takoma are hip again. Matt Baldwin, raised in California's rustic Pacific Grove, educated in the alternative mecca of Berkeley, sits in the center of this quiet, swirling scene. He is the visionary wildcard of today's solo guitar music, the ambitious fever dreamer, the serpent in the grass. Unlike many of his peers, he looks beyond the traditions of Fahey (whom he calls 'a teacher', not a god), bringing portentous and progressive elements into his music, alongside a dreamy country lilt. He covers krautrock legends Neu! ("Weissensee") and metal Vikings Judas Priest ("Winter"), and culls inspiration from prog heroes yes on the closing epic "Rainbow". His music comes on like a creeping moss, verdant but threatening, comforting yet unsettling.


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