Welcome to A&A. There are 14 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 #326 reviews
The Long Weight
It's been a while since I've heard an album that owes so much to There Goes Rhymin' Simon. I guess the 70s are back in force. Or maybe Kip Boardman is just settling into a particularly fertile groove.
The specific sound of that electric piano is what colors this for me. Boardman has an easygoing-yet-crafty approach to his lyrics that does hold a couple echoes of Simon's style, but it's the slyly mellow music that really pricks up my ears.
And, yes, the songs are put together quite well. Boardman has a way of ruminating right to the heart of a problem. And he isn't content to stick with any one groove or beat. Within the general confines of the electric piano, this album rambles a bit.
As it should. If, like me, you hold an affection for "Take Me to the Mardi Gras" and other tres-mellow Simon hits, Boardman ought to make you happy. And if you listen long enough, you'll start to hear where he blazes his own trail. Keep moving along, young man, and see where the music leads.
Prog pop rock that illuminates some seriously grand themes. The sweep is impressive, but what I like best is the way that Gazpacho manages to keep these epochal tunes largely intimate.
Unlike, say, post-Dark Side Pink Floyd, which simply took off for the rings of Uranus and never looked back. Gazpacho brings in many influences from around the world, but everything serves the whole of the album. If it didn't fit, it got thrown out.
Which is to say that this album just doesn't get wiggy. It gets slightly weird from time to time, but such is the nature of this sound. To further my point, I like the way even the tangents relate back to the whole.
Exceptionally crafted and emotionally whole. Quite a complete package. A fine album for an evening's pondering.
The best instrumental music makes the listener forget that most songs have vocals. Glorie makes the listener forget the point of vocals.
Some of these songs do have traditional melodies laid over rhythm sections, but most are organic collections of sounds and ideas. The pieces are well-crafted, but they have constructions all their own.
This may not make sense in a review, but think about some of the symphonies of the 20th century. There's lots of dissonance and rhythm, and eventually an idea is formed. Sometimes the idea is implied (and that can be especially tough to handle), but usually it is stated. Eventually, as I said.
Glorie states its ideas clearly, but the context can be complicated. These pieces are melodic, even if they don't all have unifying melodies. The pieces surge and wane and until some sort of stasis is reached. And then the idea is left written in the sand. Hypnotic.
Tender Is the Night
A few folks from Manchester who decided to reprise just about everything good that the north of England had produced over the last 35 years or so. Plenty of nods to Joy Division and New Order and the Smiths and Pulp and more.
On the whole, this trends toward kicky beats and ultra laid-back vocals. Kinda like the whole New Order ideal taken to an extreme. Oh, and there's some fine guitar work on the margins.
The songs sound like they were recorded in a bathtub or something; the reverb is something fierce. That lo-fi touch gives these songs their own feel. Golden Glow borrow plenty, but it pays back its influences in full.
A fine set. I'd like to hear where these ideas go next. That will help determine how long this Glow will last.
The Hit Back
Who Are These Weird Old Kids
Imagine an americana outfit playing new wave--complete with drum machine and the like. The Hit Back isn't quite that rootsy, but the feel is very much there.
More poppy than americana. Think Marshall Crenshaw singing over mostly electronic backing tracks. That's a better combination than you might think, too. It's at once endearing and edgy.
The beats aren't entirely coherent, so perhaps I ought to add a bit of experimentalism to the mix. The Hit Back isn't the most straightforward band around, but its sound is strikingly consistent. After two or three songs, I figure I could name anything this duo might do in three beats or less.
Adventurous and fun. Kind of like a party that made you a bit uneasy at first, but by the end of the night you were making out on the couch. You decide how far you are willing to go.
This Canadian duo makes some of the most instantly insistent music I've heard in ages. Marti Sarbit sounds like the perfect distillation of Grace Slick and Neil Young, and Rusty Matyas always seems to have the perfect music for the occasion.
Imagine: Uptempo, moody, rootsy rock and roll. Kinda like a modern-day Captain and Tenille, except that these songs are fully-formed. Matyas may be the only player, but this sounds like a full band. And boy, does it know how to rock!
Maybe a better reference is C&T meets the New Pornographers, with a side trip to some of the grander arena sounds of the 70s. If you can imagine a sound that fully embraces all of these ideals and still sounds great, you might be starting to understand what's going on here.
I'm hearing it (and, mostly, describing it), and still I can't believe it. This is one of those amazing albums that seems to have come from nowhere. I know, Matyas and Sarbit put in unimaginable work, but the effortless ease of the greatness here is breathtaking. My heart is racing.
Micro Temporal Infundibula
Let's see. David Borgo on sax(es), Nathan Hubbard on mallets, Paul Pellegrin on drums and three equally accomplished friends throwing in on bass, guitar and harp. Goodness me, this ought to be good.
Yep. The friends, in order, are Danny Weller, Paul "Junior" Garrison and Bill Barrett. And it's Barrett's harp blowing that really drives this otherwordly fusion of blues and jazz.
The lines get very blurry, indeed, and I like it that way. Barrett is generally restrained in his playing, but he can wring out emotion when he needs it. His interplay with Borgo is simply stunning.
Weller and Pellegrin hold up the rhythms section with aplomb, and Garrison and Hubbard spin spells of their own. This sextet could have been an unwieldy mess, but the players mesh amazingly. Easy to get into, and impossible to leave.
63 Songs About Joe EP
Peppy songs full of pop hooks and just the right touch of venom. Levy veers from all over the rock landscape, but her voice is always on top of the mix in standard singer-songwriter style.
These songs are well-crafted and even tend toward the slick, but I like Levy's delivery. She's direct and confident without being brassy. Her voice is high alto, and she had a good range--both singing and writing.
I haven't heard either of her earlier albums, but this short set is pleasantly enticing. Fine stuff.