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 #336 reviews
Found Recordings from the Panda Valley Mining Company c.1931
The sound is lo-fi americana. The melodies are often gorgeous, but they're hidden behind a wall of gauze. While this sort of anti-production generally comes off as pretentious and maddening, it works (mostly) for Alexander Eccles and Dubious Ranger.
Eccles has a regular life as a classical pianist and "custom songwriter" (whatever that might mean). Again, this could signal pretension beyond belief. But not on this album, anyway. These songs move along with a chunky grace, even if some of their prettier moments are lost to the production sound.
Rhythm drives these songs, even the ones that meander a bit. Indeed, the percussion sits at the center, not Eccles's piano. Though I'm pretty sure he's the one behind all the thrum as well.
Lots of all over the place, but the center holds. And there's a lightness of touch that keeps this from becoming something oppressive. Stick with the program, and all will be well.
(Record Label Records)
As is its wont, Record Label Records has created one of the geekiest and most sublime series I've come across. Pick a few crazed electronic artists and ask them to create soundtracks for imaginary Sega Genesis games.
This sounds just like you'd imagine, only ten thousand times better. While I guess it might help if you love old school video games, that's certainly not a requirement. I've never been much for video games, myself, and I found this album utterly irresistible. The shiny, edgy melodies and throbbing rhythms are more than enough to make me smile.
More to the point, Brian E adheres to both video game soundtrack and pop constructions. The result are insistently bubbly electronic songs that could serve as the most awesome video game soundtrack ever.
If this music doesn't find its way onto a video game, that would be a shame. We'd simply have to adore it for what it actually is: One hell of an album. Unrestrained joy.
The Keystone Kids
Things Get Shaky
Carly Comando and Ryan O'Donnell come at music from decidedly different angles, but when they decided to make a set of 80s-inflected pop songs, they ended up on the same page.
These seven songs are simply glorious examples of shimmer pop, shining gems that simply refuse to dim. One the hook is set, the tug is unstoppable.
Both Comando and O'Donnell allow some of their "regular" sounds to drop in, most particularly in the startlingly retro ballad "Falling." What never escapes is the pitch-perfect sense of pop glory. The songs rise above all obstacles.
One of the prettiest and most fun albums I've heard in some time. There's not a downer in the bunch here. Brilliant.
The Mighty Fine
Good to know that there are some good old hardworking melodic punk bands around these days. Sure, Against Me still flies the flag, but the ranks seem to have thinned in recent years.
Which is probably why I like the full-throated roar of this album so much. I'm a sucker for power chords and hooks, and if you add in some serious heavy riffage I'm pretty much ready to blow.
So, you know, the Mighty Fine do quite well by me. These songs blaze no new ground, and the lyrics are somewhat stock. Who cares? They move with a rugged power that simply melts my ears.
Yes, I know, I'm a whore for this kinda stuff. But hearing this album has brought me so much joy that I simply cannot deny it. Lovely.
If you're gonna call yourself Niagara, you might as well be an experimental trio from Italy. Just sayin'.
These songs are pretty much impossible to describe accurately. They do stick to a rhythmic core, but otherwise the lines diverge into a variety of streams. Vocals are part of those lines, and they can be shouts, moans or even something approaching the melodic.
Largely, though, this is all about the rhythm. The EP is a selection of four songs from a concept album based on the Marilyn Monroe movie Niagara (my brother has a poster for this movie in his house, which is a very random connection for me). Personally, I think I'd like to hear the whole album. But for now I'll stick to these tracks. Stunning.
The Old Sisters' Home
Orpheum Bell likes to call its music "country and eastern," but "folk" is a much more apt description. The band borrows from folk traditions across the continents to create its own unique sound.
So there's a bit of the gypsy guitar here, some bounding Caribbean bass there and plenty of mandolin and fiddle. The syncopated rhythm structures are mesmerizing, and the multi-leveled lines build sublimely from there.
It's one thing to have a chest full of influences. Orpheum Bell turns the trick of actually making sense of those disparate traditions and refining the sound into something coherent. These are songs, and they work. Boy, do they.
A rollicking, joyous affair. This album is pure enjoyment from the start. Turn it up and take your shoes off. It's time to dance.
The Sexy Accident
Ninja Ninja Fight Darth Vader
Easily the best thing I've heard from this Kansas City outfit. What were once modestly-disjointed indie pop throbs have become well-crafted rock jaunts. The tendency to run to tangent is intact, but the central themes of the songs simply hold together better.
In short, the Sexy Accident has found the root of "cool." These generally understated songs loop and circle around, always retaining just the right level of distance. Perhaps another way to look at this is that I've finally caught up with the band's inherent eccentricities.
And then every once in a while there's a song like "Sauvingnon Blanc," which reminds me a lot of The Hungry Mind Review (of Wilmington, N.C., one of the lost great pop bands). The song never quite kicks into overdrive, and the hook sets like a soft caress.
It's always fun to hear a band grow and get better over the years. Another step forward like this and the Sexy Accident should be getting attention from the big leagues.