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 #334 reviews
That would be Mark Allan Atwood and Heath Childs, a couple of Texan singer-songwriters who decided to do a duet album as a one-off.
Maybe they should think about a second. Childs and Atwood have distinctive styles, and they compliment each other well. The ultra-stripped down sound on this album (often just the two singers and a guitar) shows off the songs quite well. The songs range all over the map, from raucous rockers to anthemic ballads to more ruminative fare. This album travels a bumpy road, and the view is swell.
Nothing fancy (well, other than Atwood's guitar, which goes by the name of "Fancy") and nothing grandiose. Just two guys singing fifteen songs. Hey, boys, if you wrote that many for this one, you can put together another album. Right?
One can always hope. This is an inspired partnership, and it should be encouraged to grow. Fine stuff.
Eighteen years ago, Cardinal released its debut. Critic types loved it. I never heard it, but I have heard of it. That's the way it is with Cardinal. So anyway, folks kept talking about that first album and twelve years later (six years ago), it was re-issued. And still not many people noticed.
So now Cardinal has put together a second album (eighteen years is certainly not the longest time period between first and second albums, but it's up there). And my guess is that no one will notice, even though there's plenty here to recommend.
This sort of chamber pop has been done to death, but the subtle songs on this album are intriguing. Perhaps I put too much stock in perplexity, but I like having to think about my music.
I can't believe how backhanded I'm getting here, and I like the album. There are some interesting side trips in these songs, and I liked the journey. Just don't expect to be overwhelmed. That's not these boys's bag at all.
Pop from the classical chamber. Jon DeRosa prefers vibraphone to organ, and he's not above substituting cello for guitar. Oh, and he throws in as much brass as is possible. These songs use a pop construction, but implement more of a classical instrumentation.
The songs themselves are introspective musings on the nature of love. Then there's the cover of "Submarine Bells," which is utterly charming. That last doesn't quite fit in lyrically, but musically it's just about perfect.
A completely understated EP. Intense, especially in the lyrics, but not the sort of stuff to set the feet a-tapping. Rather, this sets the brain afire. I'm all for that.
Always the Light
Evagelia Maravelias and Brian Wenckebach drive this electronic pop machine. Maravelias's vocals are just lush enough to take the chill off the highly artificial sounds on this album.
Mind you, I'm not against programmed pop. And Elika doesn't actually stick to a program. These songs venture far and wide, touching on any number of sounds on the ambient side of the universe.
The vocals are what makes sense of the noodling, though, and they give these pieces their personality. Maravelias isn't a wailer or a shouter, but her cool aplomb is just the ticket for these adventures.
The ideas just keep burbling along. There aren't a lot of high or low points, but Elika keeps things varied all the same. I like the way this album explores the edges.
You Forgot to Kick It
(Record Label Records)
Kicky electronic fare that, indeed, fails to kick it. These grooves blurble and splurt into every hidden recess until there is no air left. If you remember the Wordsound posse of days gone by, this will bring a smile.
If that reference escapes you, just think of the greasiest, funkiest electronic stuff around. Goopy beats, sticky bass lines and everything else that, indeed, does not kick.
Enticing as hell, though, and almost oppressively extreme in its aspirations. This is music for world conquest--as long as fornication is part of the global domination agenda.
An absolutely stunning affair. Nasty as you want it to be, and there aren't any lyrics to speak of. Just thick beats and thicker grooves. Settle in, slide around and just try not to be seduced.
Mark Mandeville & Old Constitution
Mark Mandeville & Old Constitution
(Nobody's Favorite Records)
He's been around since almost forever, or at least it seems that way. And so when another great Mark Mandeville album rolls along, all I can do is ask "What took you so long?"
Raianne Richards plays Emmylou to Mark's Gram. They have an easy musical partnership, always seeming to know exactly where to come in and where to leave. Once you've heard them sing together, you'll wonder why they would ever sing apart.
The songs are as evocative and charming as ever. Nothing on this album feels rushed or forced. The arrangements are intricate but completely uncluttered. Listening is like sipping bourbon that has slowly melted all the ice in the glass.
Plan to devote plenty of time to this one. If you ever feel the need to lead a harried life, a dozen listens or so should get you right back where you belong. A tonic for those of us who try to do far too much.
Once more, with feeling. Oy Vey is back, launching thirteen more ambitious songs that lie somewhere between new wave, techno and indie rock. Most folks don't try so hard. Almost no one makes it sound so simple.
Taking the lean lines of new wave and indie rock and infusing them with electronic power, Oy Vey creates a pulsating sound that moves incessantly. Yes, Virginia, you can dance (quite happily) to this.
Old school, I suppose, the thought of dancing to rock and roll, but that's just how it is. Oy Vey is a band, no matter how much it gussies up its guts.
At least as good as Botanical Curiosity, and probably a hair better. Oy Vey isn't trying to change the world. It's just trying to get you to dance. So dance, dammit, and don't worry so much. End transmission.