Home > Author blabber > Discography Discoveries: The High Llamas and Mary Lou Lord

Discography Discoveries: The High Llamas and Mary Lou Lord

When sorting through collections of discs that are marked way, way down, it is usual to see a disc from nearly every artist represented. Aside from maybe the Beatles and Radiohead, there aren’t too many musical artists that don’t have a dud somewhere in their discography. However, it is very rare in my journeys to discover multiple releases of an artist’s discography all in one place.  But behold, how rare is it to find two artists?!

Pictured: Featured artists' reactions upon hearing they'll be featured in one of my dollar bin commentaries. C'mon guys, it's not all bad!

I do not know very much about the High Llamas or Mary Lou Lord aside from the fact that they released most of their music in the nineties. You may say that well of course, a lot of bands in the nineties have long dwelled in the discount bins, perhaps even starting their descent as early as the late nineties. True, there (Sugar Ray) are plenty (Smashmouth) of those (Marcy’s Playground) types (Geggy Tah) of groups (Hootie) found (Ace of Base) in bins everywhere. However, these two are different from that usual crowd and I don’t see them sold cheaply anywhere, especially in groups. So what gives?

There happened to be three of each artist that I saw. For the High Llamas, it was “Hawaii”, the “Lollo Rosso” EP, and two copies of “Gideon Gaye”.  “Gideon Gaye” is marked as the album to get on Allmusic.com as well as Rateyourmusic.com, so to see two versions of their top disc was strange to see.  It’s a good, solid pop record even though it might sound a little too light and cheery a la Crosby Stills and Nash.  “Checking In, Checking Out” is a strong representation of the rest of the record with its upbeat tempo and piano notes potted to the front.  It’s the heavily layered vocals that might grate a bit on some during the choruses.  “Hawaii”, the record released two years later in 1996, sounds nearly the same as “Gideon Gaye”.  A reviewer on Allmusic likens their sound to Brian Wilson and “Smile”, which is dead on.  The “Lollo Rosso” EP, though, is pretty cool in that it remixes songs from the “Cold and Bouncy” album into more interesting electronic takes.  At least it breaks up some the sugary monotony, even if the original tracks are pleasing to the ears.  Check them out on their website if you want to catch up with all things High Llamas.

Of the Mary Lou Lord albums I found, there was her debut “Got No Shadow” record, the “Martian Saints” EP, and the “Mary Lou Lord/Sean Na Na” split EP.  Again marked as a top album on Allmusic (but not Rateyourmusic), “Got No Shadow” is a strong pop record by a singer-songwriter.  I’m not usually all hung up over singer-songwriters (Elliott Smith aside) but Mary Lou Lord has a really nice, light voice.  I’m serious, it’s remarkably delicate on “His Lamest Flame” and pointedly resigned on “Western Union Desperate”.  It’s not all peaceful, though, as “Some Jingle Jangle Morning” lays on more rock to the pop.  Granted, it’s more along the lines of the Lemonheads during their popular phase, so there’s a nice balance of loud music and soft vocals.  “Martian Saints” is more of a covers EP, where she actually covers one by Elliott Smith.  Score!  The split EP consists of more cover songs by Lord, including a swinging version of Janis Martin’s “Bang Bang”, and few consistently peppy numbers by Sean Na Na.  Listen to a few of her tunes (and read her enlightening bio) on Mary Lou Lord’s MySpace page.

Based on some of the other records I scored and let slide, I have a conclusion to make of how this phenomenon came to be.  In my expert opinion, I believe a lady in her late twenties or early thirties decided to let go of her CD collection.  Why do I think this?  Well, for starters this soft pop kind of stuff tends to be more along the lines of what my female friends have listened to.  I also happened to have picked up copies of Silversun Pickups, Badly Drawn Boy, and the Blake Babies as well, which is on the lighter side even if the Pickups have a bit of more volume in them.  However, the most critical piece of evidence was the fact that there was a slew of Counting Crows discs all over the place.  I mean, I could’ve written a Discography Discoveries article on them (I refuse to for the sake of sanity).  Therefore, I am right.

As for the High Llamas and Mary Lou Lord, they’re both solid pop artists that could complement one’s musical collection if they’re looking for infallibly enjoyable music.  Personally, I liked Mary Lou Lord’s collection over the High Llamas, but if one is into easygoing pop rock music then one likely won’t be disappointed by either.  I wouldn’t say that it’s an utter atrocity that any of their albums should be found in a dollar bin, yet I would say that if someone decided to take a chance on their records that person will likely get a better listening result than 75% of the stuff that is usually found for a buck.  If there’s more than one record of theirs to be found, hey, that’s some quality profit right there.

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