Simon Joyner's new album, Songs for the New Year (Shrimper/Sing, Eunuchs!), looks and sounds mighty old, with its earth-toned sleeve art, gently strummed guitar, mournful fiddle, and stark upright piano. He's not stuck too far in the past; in his vividly detailed songs he's as likely to mention televisions, taxis, and Joy Division as to invoke figures from the Bible or Greek mythology. But time's corrosive effects loom large among Joyner's lyrical preoccupations--a shared history of sorrow is all that binds the parting comrades in "Two Friends Take a Bow for the Record," for instance. Separation and loss also haunt his characters, but their pain is leavened with hard-earned hope. In "Born of Longing" he sings, "You assume that I'm wounded because I'm hunchbacked and hooded / But I've got a dream just like any honest man / I might keep it hidden so sweet is my burden / But if someone tried to steal it they'd have to cut off my hands / For it's as heavy and as precious as gold." The record's sparse, sympathetic arrangements are quite beautiful, but they're only a frame, and in concert Joyner's cracked, expressive voice and pensive guitar work are the whole picture. The Mountain Goats headline. Thursday, June 26, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. BILL MEYER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.