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 #271 reviews
Well-crafted, tightly-produced nuggets. A bit moody for power pop, I suppose--and probably a bit too shiny for indie rock, for that matter--Abercrombie has a knack for nailing a hook that should make him the envy of just about anyone.
These songs are deceptively simple. The music is uncluttered and generally straightforward, which is one reason I like it so much. Even when he occasionally trails into major label cliches (the echo-y back beat in a song intro, for example), he manages to turn them around by the time he hits the honey.
And yeah, these anthems have the hooks necessary to land listeners. This is the sort of thing that just might make it in the mainstream, but I'd guess Abercrombie is still a bit too serious and introspective for the amphitheaters. I've been wrong about that before, though, and I'd like to be now.
This is a stab at major stardom, make no mistake. Abercrombie knows how to write songs and make them just ordinary enough to attract a wide audience. Whether he gets it or not is a matter of public whim. Gotta love the music biz.
Keith John Adams
(Happy Happy Birthday to Me)
Keith John Adams has a certain affection for toy piano and other "unusual" instruments (accordion, etc.), but rather than play on some sort of gimmick, he simply plays. And while the effect can be a bit unnerving, his sincere delivery is always convincing.
And anyway, when you're a one-man band playing off-kilter pop (kind of the bastard step-child of the singer-songwriter genre) it doesn't hurt to do a couple of things to help your music stand out.
Adams's writing does that, however, so the finishing touches are merely wonderful little presents. He's really got a fine feel for the slightly lurching, slightly deranged pop song. Reminds me a bit of an unrefined David Singer, which is certainly high praise from me.
Well done. One of those albums that pricks up the ears and quickly invades the soul. Disquietingly good.
The usual from Public Eyesore: A trio of guys who make barely playing their instruments an art form. Nate Wooley on high brass (trumpet and flugelhorn), Steve Swell on low brass (trombone) and Tatsuya Nakatani on percussion (percussion). It's pretty rare that either of the brass players gets off a complete note, but this noisy, crackling series of improvisations never fails to astound me.
These guys know each other. Maybe not Biblically, but certainly they have a fine feel for what the other players are going to do. And that form of divine anticipation leads to a surprisingly large number of inspirational moments.
The songs hang together quite well, and the sound is decidedly full--somewhat surprising considering the way the music is being played. Many of the pieces sound like some sort of possessed popcorn popper (with added melody), and the rounded sound does right by them.
Yes, yes, I'm probably preaching to the converted here, but what the hell. This is yet another outstanding release from "Omaha's most unknown label." More than enough to make me smile.
I'm not against country music produced with a fine sheen--the Foster and Lloyd albums are among my favorites. But more often, producers with heavy hands take all the fun out the songs, churning out dirge-like fare that would be more at home in a Romanian castle than a honky tonk.
Chad Bradford has a wry sense of humor. And even though he delivers his songs with ramrod sincerity, every once in a while he winks. The production is awfully powerful, but it allows Bradford enough space to make his own mark. His personality is evident throughout this album.
Not unlike Travis Abercrombie (reviewed in this issue), this is an obvious stab at mega-stardom. And Bradford has a production company behind him, which certainly improves his chances. He's got a good shot to really do something, and this album might get him the attention he needs.
There are a few touches on this album that aren't particularly country (not even "big-time" country)--a keyboard rumination at the end of a ballad, say, or the odd chord change that suggests punk or goth more than Nashville. I like that. And even if he didn't have anything to do with those studio bits, they fit Bradford. If he does make it big, I hope he keeps making albums as interesting as this one.
One Man's Treasure
Perhaps best known for his long-time association with Nick Cave, Mick Harvey has produced or performed on a lot of your favorite albums (check the liners closely, folks). He gets around, but only infrequently records himself.
This album does have a bit of the menacing quality of some of the better Bad Seeds efforts, but Harvey's voice is at once generic and powerful. It's not hard to forget, but Harvey has a delivery that can stop a song cold.
The songs here are his and those of some of the more eclectic writers of decades past (Lee Hazelwood, Tim Buckley, etc.). The sound is seamless, with each piece seemingly flowing into the next. The seduction is almost impossible to resist.
And then all of a sudden you're completely defenseless, and you get whacked. Harvey is a heartless artist. He takes no prisoners, even as he creates some of the most gorgeous songs around. A true marvel.