It's a fecund time for female artists. In addition to Chan Marshall's latest are recent outstanding releases from Neko Case (The Fox Confessor Brings the Flood), Beth Orton (The Comfort of Strangers), Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis (Rabbit Fur Coat), Isobel Campbell (her collaboration with Mark Lanegan, Ballad of the Broken Seas) and Tres Chicas (Bloom, Red and the Ordinary Girl).
Overlooked in this embarrassment of riches is Lauren Hoffman's Choreography. Virginia native Hoffman hasn't been heard from on record in seven years. And it's been nearly a decade since her debut, Megiddo, languished in Virgin Records' purgatory -- until she pulled the plug on the deal.
"I could fill a page with reasons," Hoffman wrote by e-mail from Europe where she's touring. "But all of those reasons would just be the symptoms of the underlying problem, which is simply corporate mentality -- quarterly reporting pressure and lowest-common-denominator marketing techniques."
Backed by a host of quality players -- David Lowery (Cracker, CVB), Alan Weatherhead (Sparklehorse) and Timo Ellis (Cibo Matto), among others -- Hoffman has created one of the early surprises of 2006. Choreography is equal parts elegiac Aimee Mann and atmospheric, Trampoline-era Joe Henry. And full of vaguely sinister soundscapes buffeted by swirling keys, rich baritone guitars and programmed beats -- all propping up Hoffman's intimate narratives about life's hard-earned lessons. Like an increasing number of American artists, Hoffman found musical salvation signing with France's Fargo Records (www.fargorecords.com).
"I knew their reputation and was impressed with their roster and the fairness and transparency of their business practices," Hoffman writes. "I just performed in Paris for their fifth anniversary party and really felt blessed and proud to be a part of this scene; now if I could only find a Fargo for America!"
THE LOCAL TWIST: Kudos to Elevator Action, the Talk and the Sammies, who've just finished playing the MoRisen Records showcase at the 20-year-old industry cluster-fuck, South By Southwest, in Austin, TX. The Sammies' self-titled debut and EA's sophomore effort, Society, Secret -- both produced by John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr., Breeders) -- are due out in June. Another MoRisen act, the Alternative Champs, are working on songs for the score of the upcoming film, Employee of the Month ... Jailhouse Religion, by David Childers and the Modern Juans, is out and receiving rave reviews; writes Rob Patterson in Harp: "Childers and his gut-punching Don Juans transcend the yawns and poses of most alt-country to recall the early-1980s heyday of country punk with their guitar-seared bar-band country rocking." ... High-fives also go out to another Ramseur Records client, the Avett Brothers, for their humongous spread in the February/March issue of Paste ... Part-time Charlotte resident Nicole Atkins has signed a deal with Columbia Records; recording is set to begin this spring ... The Houston Brothers return to the public arena bringing a welcome end to their open-ended hiatus; Faircloth brothers Justin and Matt headline an April 21 gig at the Neighborhood Theatre; the Sammies open ... Hats off to the Triangle's Tres Chicas, whose latest disc opens with a gorgeous cover of the Lou Ford classic, "Drop Me Down," written by Alan Edwards and Mark Lynch ... The Sioux Sioux Studio of drummer Chris Walldorf (Pyramid, Sea of Cortez) is open for business. It boasts 1,200 square feet, a main tracking room and a control room and three isolation booths, and has already hosted recordings by the Hard Times Family, the Eastern Seaboard and Charleston, SC's A Decent Animal. Currently, Sea of Cortez is recording its debut there. Interested parties can contact Walldorf through the Pyramid Web site (www.sidewalkexplosion.com). Meanwhile, Pyramid plays its first local show in roughly eight months March 25 at the Visulite Theatre.
UP-AND-RUNNING: Count Drive-By Trucker Patterson Hood among the biggest fans of Centro-Matic's new Fort Recovery (Misra); the lead Trucker took the unusual step of writing the press sheet that accompanies advance copies of Centro's eighth disc, calling it his "favorite record of the last five years." Says Hood, "I was scared when I turned that in that they were going to take out a restraining order. They kind of bring out the fan-boy in me." With more hooks than your uncle's tackle kit, it's easy to see why ... Portland, OR, may be the capital of male/female duo bands, and two of them released stellar discs this week. Quasi -- Sam Coomes and Sleater/Kinney's Janet Weiss -- drops When the Going Gets Dark (Touch & Go), a molten-hot mix of dissonance and melodic bliss. Talkdemonic -- which won The Willamette Weekly's Best New Band last year -- releases its sophomore effort, Beat Romantic (Arena Rock). It's an all-instrumental suite built on drums, viola, banjo and various keys, loops and synths -- think Eno with a beat and you're in the neighborhood. Viva Voce, another Portland male/female duo, expects to finish its third release in April.