Troubled by the Fire

(Bella Union)

Laura Veirs doesn't have a classically trained voice; it strains on the high notes, falters on the low notes, but it's also beautifully balanced, nestling in with Veirs' lo-fi, fuzzy folk music like a baby deer at its mother's breast. The songs on Troubled By The Fire are pure like nature, and sweet, but not sickly sweet. "Shining Lamp" is a simple, short, gorgeous violin instrumental. "Ohio Clouds" opens up with electric guitar jamming, soft chimes, and elegant lyrical depictions of small town Ohio life, then a warning from Veirs to get rid of that guy 'cause he's "gonna blacken up the sky." "Bedroom Eyes" is a light, lovely reflection on the return of an individual to his/her lover's arms. Warnings and yearnings; loves and losses. These are ditties at their truest. JUSTIN WESCOAT SANDERS


It Was High Time to Escape

(54"40' or Fight!)

31 Knots' third LP, It Was High Time To Escape, brings directions new and old for the Portland trio. It plays smoothly as an album, but actually represents a tale of two bands, two Joes, two Jays, and two years. Four songs were recorded in the summer of 2002 and written by principle songwriter Joe Haege, bassist Jay Winebrenner, and former drummer Joe Kelly. The other six were recorded in 2003 in San Francisco with new drummer Jay Pellicci and written mainly by singer and guitarist Haege. The differences are minimal and on both batches, Haege still impresses with the coordination to melodically sing interesting lyrics over sharp angular riffs, fancy fret board voyages, and multiple guitar timbres--with arrangements taking listeners through many interesting, often complex changes. Amid a glut of recent indierock blandness, 31Knots continue to demonstrate moving, progressive songwriting and delivery. AARON MILES


Plagiarythm Nation



The mash-up phenomenon--in which lyrics and music from two different artists hook up for usually absurd one-song stands--has been raging for the past few years, but the Evolution Control Committee started it with 1993's "Rebel without a Pause (Whipped Cream Mix)." On that platter, these Ohio pranksters spliced a rap from Public Enemy's Chuck D to a cheesy Herb Alpert tune. Cue cheap yuks. It's doubtful ECC thought their audio tomfoolery would spawn a worldwide craze. But their most infamous prank--"Rocked by Rape," in which Dan Rather utters a litany of calamity to AC/DC's metal classic "Back in Black"--launched ECC into mass consciousness (and trouble with CBS' lawyers). Unfortunately, the bulk of Plagiarythm Nation sounds better in theory (and on pot) than on disc. Most of these 29 tracks are merely silly. But sometimes ECC's wacky juxtaposition of words and sounds is so illogical it makes a higher kind of sense. DAVE SEGAL

**** Operation Bomb Paris A Lot (France, 2005)

*** Operation Canadian Liberation (Canada, 2004)

** Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan, 2001)

* Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq, 2003)