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 #335 reviews
What the Moon Has Done
Absolutely absurd, completely addictive mood americana. Bakelite 78 rolls the red carpet back to the days of Tin Pan Alley and Dixieland, and lays the metaphors (both musical and lyrical) on with a trowel. But the band fails to fall prey to cliche (unlike this hack reviewer, sad to say).
There's something about the sound of a walking double bass, banjo and saw (yep, saw) that makes me smile. Yes, there is the echo of the past, but these songs have their feet firmly set in the present. Listen closely; the writing is utterly present-day.
This is the second iteration of the band. Founder Robert Rial wandered around the Chicago area for a few years (recording a couple of albums) before heading all the way west to Seattle back in 2009. This is the first set for the reconstituted group. I think it holds up the high standards of those earlier efforts.
You'll laugh, you'll cry--and sure, you might scowl as such silly fare as "Lurid Lounge." This is one band that doesn't take itself terribly seriously. Which only serves to make this album that much more fun. A complete blast.
Crystal Bright and the Silver Hands
Muses and Bones
Crystal Bright has wandered just about everywhere, it seems, and she likes to cram all of her travels into her songs. This album uses the loping rhythms of the Roma as her base, grafting all manner of ideas to that fluid and engaging style.
Over the top? Yeah, just a bit. Bright pretty much insists on your full attention from the first minute. I didn't mind, though. These songs are immediately arresting, even if the sense of drama within them might feel a bit contrived now and again.
That's okay by me. Bright enlists so many "Silver Hands" to flesh out her ideas that the album resembles the carnival that its musical underpinnings suggest. If that last sentence didn't quite make sense, well, I'm under the influence. Of Bright, that is.
Lovely, stirring and generally enthralling. Bright's breadth of sound is almost unbelievable, and this album moves along with power, grace and style. Must remember to breathe. In a moment.
While still wandering the electronic streets, Command V is quite the departure for Mush Records. These folks are from a different coast and a different time (metaphorically, anyway).
This stuff is chilly, with hints of Suicide and other New York antecedents. The vocals are assertive and assured. Unlike most Mush artists, Command V could care less about the beats. This is all about the feel and the songs themselves.
What Command V adds to its influences is a slinky sense of songcraft. There are some serious grooves in these songs. And there's very little droning or repetition in general. Just a greasy throb.
Electronic music is rarely understated, but Command V does a fine job of flying largely under-the-radar. These adventurous songs blurp along with wry senses of musicality and humor. Most engaging.
It's been a long time since I last caught up with Bobby Conn, but I'm glad to hear that he's still staggering through similar new wave-tinged electronic r&b territory.
I'm not kidding with that description. Conn may have moved a bit toward straight pop and a hair away from the r&b, but there's still plenty of soul here. Once you get past the assembled sound and Conn's decidedly affected voice.
Oh, that voice. It's just another off-kilter piece of this remarkably messy affair. Just about every song relies on incongruity in order to hold together. Do you know how hard that is to maintain?
And then every once in a while there's a gem like "Face Blind" that will make non-doctrinaire Marvin Gaye fans smile. Lord have mercy, that's a stunner. There's too much here to quantify, but it's easy to praise the quality. My ears runneth over.
Dance Hall Pimps
Beast for Love
Cross banjo picking with hard rockin' riffage and an almost impenetrable rhythm section and you're starting to get the idea. This is the worst band name I've come across in ages, but the music more than makes up for that. The center of these songs is pure rockabilly, but the middle is thicker than Alex Ovechkin's thighs.
What I like is the way that the old time rock and roll manages to outdo the heavy-handed production. And with a bit of banjo and piano leavening the mix, these songs really roll down easy.
The band is relatively new, but the members have been around since forever. Jeff Jourard was in the Motels (among others) and just about everyone else has a similar story (the name Tom Petty keeps dropping everywhere). In short, we're talking about session guys who are having a blast doing their own thing. Singer RJC (R.J. Comer) has a fine rasp, even if he hasn't been singing for quite a while.
As might be expected, there is a by-the-book feel to a few of these songs, but the performances are so solid (particularly the reed work of Steve Carr) that it's much easier to get carried away than bogged down in details. Let the good times roll.
Sun Is Sunk EP
Nothing complicated. Nothing subtle. Nothing intricate. Just delicate pop songs played and sung with punchy grace.
Not much of a progression from Broken Bow, but then, why should there be any? That album was chock full of blissful wallflower pop, and so is this EP.
The usual, which is pretty damned awesome. Few bands have the confidence to restrain themselves the way Eux Autres does, and even fewer have the songwriting chops to make it work. And believe me, this works.
Is And Of The
There is no description that can do this justice. Drew Bandos (who is Is And Of The) seems to have transcribed his brain onto these astoundingly accessible experimental electronic pieces. I'm not sure how else to explain.
An exceptionally gentle touch guides these songs, which is the main reason they flow into the brain with such ease. There seems to be almost no filter between thought and music, and at times I feel as though I can read Bandos's mind through the music on this album.
That feeling isn't unique, but it is addictive. And once hooked, the more experimental asides roll by with nary a shrug. It all makes sense, you see.
One minute is enough to hypnotize, but it will take many listens to begin to get a handle on how this album came together. Bandos deserves high praise for his writing, but the assembly and production are what make this album so brilliant.
Baron von Luxxury
The Last Seduction
I guess Robin Blake decided that "Luxxury" was too pedestrian a moniker, so he added "Baron von" to class things up a bit.
The obvious reference point here is Giorgio Moroder, whose pillowy synths and throbbing bass lines pretty much defined the mid 80s. Blake uses both of those elements to great effect, and he adds in some catchy tunes. Nothing exceedingly aggressive, but utterly entrancing.
Indeed, if your idea of a fine night out is losing yourself on the dance floor, this is the best such album I've heard in quite a while. Yeah, there's plenty of cheese. That's the point.
Settle into the Luxxury life. It's fully of cushy couches and slushy drinks served in strangely-shaped glasses. And ear candy. Lots and lots of ear candy. Delicious.
Cheyenne Marie Mize
We Don't Need EP
I got a promo copy of this album last fall, and just before I was about to publish a review I was told that Mize had a deal with Yep Roc. So I decided to wait.
This isn't the first stuff I've heard from Mize, but it is the first that I've really liked. "Wishing Well," the first track, is an kinetic percussion-and-vocal piece that showcases how versatile one can be with the whole singer-songwriter thing.
The rest of this EP is a bit more pedestrian, but Mize takes a lot more chances with these songs, and the results are accordingly impressive. If she continues to improve at this rate, she's got a long career ahead of her. Keep an ear on this one.