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.|
If you have any problems, criticisms or suggestions, drop me a line.
A&A #338 reviews
Growth and Squalor
Folk-influenced rock 'n' pop, more of an amalgam of many styles. Kind of like americana run through a mathy emo filter. And at this point, I have officially made a mess of this review.
Which is a shame, because my first thought upon hearing the Accents was "Wow, these guys have an awesome streamlined sound." Indeed. It's just that the sounds that go into that sound are wonderfully diverse, and the resulting songs are softly-tumbled gems.
The sound is gorgeous, sharp enough to emphasize the frames and loose enough to lend an easy-going feel to the whole. This sounds like the simplest thing in the world, but in truth, it's hard work sounding effortless.
Absolutely beautiful songs that ring like bells. The Accents have distilled their ideas into a brilliant album. Wonderful.
The Appleseed Collective
Baby to Beast
Museum-shop americana, which is not an insult at all. The Appleseed Collective embraces all sorts of old-timey sounds within its clunky roots sound, and the resulting songs tend to be goody charmers.
Oh, there are a few folkier bits, and a couple of songs that veer into bluegrass-ish territory, but most of the pieces here have the feel of broken-down reels and loping ballads. Craft isn't paramount, but the band makes up for that with a joyous, freewheeling attitude.
The sound is just a bit too sharp for my taste, but perhaps that's more of a function of the emphasis on idiosyncratic rhythm than anything else. In any case, it's quite easy to hear everything going on. The lines don't always match, but they do make sense.
Which is also the story of the album. Haphazard at times, but all the more fun for that. Skip on down along the road.
Dead Rat Orchestra
The Guga Hunters of Ness
There's the whole rootsy/americana thing, and there's the whole drone/soundscape thing. Dead Rat Orchestra brings traditional instrumentation into an area that has long been dominated by electronics, and the results are stunning.
Americana isn't the worst description of the rootsy flavors of this band, but since these folks hail from England perhaps we might find another word. Choose your own, I say. The name of the band fits very well, though, as these conceptual pieces have a strong orchestral feel to them.
Slowly, with intent, each of these pieces comes to life. This is not an album for the attention-deficient. This is an album for contemplation and rumination. And then, just when you think you might have wandered a bit too deeply into the frontal lobes, there are double shots of beauty.
All told, one utterly original effort. You won't hear another album like it this year. That alone recommends it to me, but for those who need more, I'll vouch for the quality as well. Slow down long enough to enjoy this, and you'll be well rewarded.
I liked Better Things, the first Easter Island release. This one is tighter where it needs to be tighter and moves more where it needs to do that. In all, a superior effort.
The ringing tones are still omnipresent, but the gorgeous melodies have more bite here. Better Things tended to fade for me, but Frightened has a tougher bite.
Stronger hooks, more attention to songcraft and that sort of thing. And, truly, better songs in general. What was merely pretty has become beautiful.
These Athens boys seem to have really locked in. One more step like this and the results could be legendary. Most impressive.
Edmund Pellino (he prefers "the second," which seems silly but is otherwise fine by me) had been rolling around the periphery of modern indie rock for more than a decade. After taking some time off, he has emerged with this poppy concept album.
And the story is a fine one. Better yet, the songs stand up on their own. That's the sign of an artist who knows how to do this sort of thing. Edmund II stays in pocket for the whole album, keeping a tight focus on the tale.
The sound is lightly ringing, that sort of early 70s folky pop rock that can get cloying fast. Edmund II keeps the songs moving so that there's never a temptation to dip into distress. The songs remain lovely and engaging.
And the songs just keep rolling in. This album is easy to love and almost criminally accessible, to boot. Drift along with the current, and all will be well.