Is Carrie Underwood the anti-Christ? Is The Secret Machines one of the strongest bands to come out of North Texas this decade? Are Preston and Ryan going to come to blows over that Damien Rice soundalike Ray LaMontagne? These questions and more are answered in this week's edition of the Sound Files podcast, featuring critics Preston Jones and Ryan Peterson.
Segment One: Carrie Underwood
Bland as she is, Carrie Underwood can pick fitting album titles. Her sophomore effort Carnival Ride aptly sums up the last two years of her life — being plucked from Oklahoma obscurity by American Idol and catapulted into the spotlight, selling millions of records, winning a staggering number of industry awards and becoming a veritable Nashville icon almost overnight. Underwood, with opener Little Big Town, plays Grand Prairie’s Nokia Theatre Thursday.
What did poor Carrie do to get Preston so riled up?
Segment Two: The Secret Machines
One-time Dallasites Secret Machines are down an original member -- guitarist Benjamin Curtis bailed in early 2007 to form School of Seven Bells -- but sound as expansive and thunderously weird as ever on their third studio album and follow-up to 2006’s Ten Silver Drops. By injecting gauzy atmospherics into their bombastic prog-rock epics, the Machines find a balance between concise, muscular songcraft and indulgent instrumentals.
After years of refusing to convert, Ryan is officially a believer in The Secret Machines
Segment Three: Ray LaMontagne
Gossip in the Grain, LaMontagne’s third studio album, is no less staggering than his previous works but has a nimble focus that balances the fierce melancholy inherent in LaMontagne’s often autumnal, always gorgeous compositions that rarely fit snugly into one particular genre. By restraining himself and allowing a little sunlight into his music, the New Hampshire native has taken pains to leaven the stark shadows, proving that even the most forlorn souls smile every now and then.
Preston gushes over Mr. LaMontagne; Ryan resists -- but just barely -- calling him an idiot.