Welcome to A&A. There are 12 full reviews in this issue. Click on an artist to jump to the review, or simply scroll through the list. If you want information on any particular release, check out the Label info page. All reviews are written by Jon Worley unless otherwise noted.|
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A&A #299 reviews
Eat Your Heart Out EP
(Bait Shop Pop)
The folks pursue pop bliss with the sheer abandon of the Posies, though their harmonies trend more Wilsonian than Chiltonian.
The structure is impeccable. These songs possess impressive character and hooks that trap with steel rather than sugar. I didn't detect a single misstep, even if the opening and closing skits are a bit silly.
Six songs, and each one a gem. I don't know how long the Breakups have been in the business, but this EP augurs a bright future.
Don Chambers and Goat
The disc opens with apocalyptic americana a la 16 Horsepower. The album somewhat ripens into a slightly more optimistic key, but Chambers and Goat (what a moniker!) never let the listener get comfy.
Indeed, these songs retain a remarkable surface tension in the lyrics. Chambers generally adds resonance with some sort of musical dissonance, and sometimes he doesn't quite resolve either issue. Some problems can't be resolved. I think Chambers is pretty clear about that.
What's he's also quite clear about is his vision for the scope and sound of this album. Each successive song seems to stretch further and further in hopes of finding some greater truth. Again, not all problems can be resolved, but Chambers quest is compelling.
This album sounds great on first listen, and then subsequent spins reveal layer upon layer of subtext. I'm gonna be finding something new five years from now. That's the sort of attention to detail that creates a classic.
Weighs a Ton
King Missile meets Tom Waits in a bad alley. Jesse Jackson mistakes John S. Hall for Barack Obama...and inexplicably Hall's voice drops. A jaunty eunuch in the company of madness; that's probably the only way to make sense of this disc of divinely warped storytelling.
Make no mistake: the music is utterly compelling (and often closer to Neil Young than Tom Waits, but whatever), but the lyrical flights of fancy take precedence. Even on the instrumentals. Like I said, madness is merely the beginning.
After about five songs, though, I was completely addicted. Mike Millevoi's off-handed speak-singing is a glorious counterpoint to the convoluted compositions. The sound is noisy but full. These folks are having a great time destroying rational thought. I'm with them all the way.
It is impossible to enjoy this album and remain in touch with the real world. You just gotta let go for a while. And that act of liberation is a gift that cannot be overstated. Wildly amazing.
Dead Heart Bloom
Fall In EP
Sumptuous rock and roll, played with solid orchestral backing through the occasional scrim of distortion. The sort of sonic perfection that stops the heart. Over and over again.
Dead Heart Bloom is releasing three EPs in the near future, and this is the first. God help us all. If the next two are as good as this one, the combination of the three might be more than civilization can handle.
Anyone who can channel Bowie, early U2 and My Bloody Valentine--in the same song--deserves plenty of attention. Brace yourselves. There might be new heroes in the big rock game. The next two EPs will tell the story.
Outside Our Gates
Durrett has a couple cameos on the Don Chambers album reviewed above, and her music does share a certain dour feeling. But while Chambers warms up a bit, Durrett never puts away her ethereal singing style. Not even when the music starts moving.
This highly-restrained sort of singing is an acquired taste, and it's not really mine. But it does work exceptionally well within the arrangements of these songs. I'm sure there are other ways to sing these pieces, but her way works quite well.
That vocal style does keep these songs from ever taking full flight, but they're not supposed to. This is an introspective exercise, and as such it triumphs. These pieces invite pondering.
And then they flit away on the wind. Some folks who try this style get ponderous. Durrett never touches the ground. Her songs are graceful gliders eternally swooping low and then finding the next thermal in order to rise once more. Entrancing stuff.
In a Cool Monsoon
(Pumpkin Seeds in the Sand)
While this occasionally sounds like a mildly-restrained bit of improvisational chaos, Jasper TX is actually one Dag Rosenqvist. And Dag's one dude I do not want to meet in any alley, dark or not.
The ideas that wander through these pieces are often brilliant. They're also often deconstructed to the edge of existence. Whether by skewing tempo, slaughtering melody with distortion, swimming toward the ambient or simply moving pieces around, Rosenqvist refuses to play the game in a simple way.
Thank goodness. I love music that warps and bends in on itself. Easy tunes are nice, but every once in a while it's good to have a substantial meal. And this disc is full of five-course wonders.
Yes, yes, it's not everyone's cup of tea (or even saucer of hemlock). That's okay. I'll dive right in again and again.
I got two KaiserCartel discs this month. The first one I listened to, Okay...And Other Things We Feel, is a collection of odds and ends. It's not very interesting. So I popped in this disc (which is the band's debut), expecting nothing much.
Whoops! This duo combines the playfulness of laptop pop with real instruments and a decidedly off-kilter sense of humor. These songs would be goofy if they weren't so damned wry.
Wry is a good description of the music as well. Many of these songs are well-appointed with significant orchestration (played largely by Ms. Kaiser and Mr. Cartel). But the arrangements retain a tasteful minimalism, which gives these songs all the room they need to take off.
So, anyway, March Forth is the album. It's really good. That other thing? Listen to it only after you've fallen hard for this one.
Lewi Longmire Band
Fire 'neath the Still
Yet another fine practitioner of modern country-rock music from the Pacific Northwest. Maybe folks up there are getting a bit jaded, what with so many outstanding artists in a relatively small area, but I find it hard to believe that Longmire couldn't find a label interested in this album.
Longmire swings wildly between mannered, introspective pieces (think latter-day Dylan, I suppose) and great driving music, with a few anthems (of varying styles) tossed in for good measure. Perhaps he doesn't segue between moods as well as he should, but the songs stand up nicely on their own.
Maybe the problem is that Longmire isn't quite sure what tradition to follow. There's some "traditional" americana, some Texas two-step, the obligatory paeans to the open road, some 70s AOR (with a bit of twang) and more. He shifts gears so easily that it's sometimes hard to believe that these pieces are, in fact, part of one album.
Longmire's songwriting skill is impressive, and his band does a nice job with this album. I suppose I wish it was a bit more coherent, but there's no denying the power of the songs. Impressive.