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 #339 reviews
This one's been around for a year or so, but good music is always worth shining a light. Black Whales take the whole Pac NW pop thingy and spins it rootsy and psychedelic. Wait, you say, that sounds like the Posies. Well, kinda, except these boys are completely different.
Allow me to explain. Rather than build every song around a pop core, Black Whales tend use use different bones for different songs. And so the organ and reverb-laden lead guitar are pretty much ubiquitous, but the ever-shifting rhythms and riffage put those familiar sounds into different contexts.
This works. Black Whales are able to be adventurous within the loose constraints of a band sound. The songs are tightly written but played with a loose hand. Just the way they should be.
When I catch up to something great, I don't hesitate to give it a pump. Black Whales have it going on. Here's hoping for something new from the guys sooner than later.
I may be wrong about this, but I think Enola Fall is the first Tasmanian band I've ever reviewed. What's even more interesting is that this album didn't even make the cut back in June, and here it is with a full review. Why?
Sometimes stuff grows on me. And Enola Fall is not particularly assertive. Sure, the rhythms are deft and the guitar lines are bright and fluid, but these songs do not immediately jump out of the speakers.
It's the second and third and tenth listens that really help to bring out what's great about this album. Enola Fall is almost impeccably deliberate, and the album is constructed like each song, one piece fitting perfectly into another. Rock and roll generally doesn't hold together this tightly, and it takes a while to get used to the idea.
Nothing crazy. Nothing bombastic. But these boys are astonishingly ambitious and even more amazingly successful. This album is a clockwork, and it wears better every time it is rewound. I missed it the first time around, but luckily I didn't make that mistake again. A true wonder.
So I like to do a little research on the bands I'm going to review. And one review calls these boys a "Fresno/Los Angeles band." Which is sorta like using the phrases "Spokane/Seattle band" or "Macon/Atlanta band" or whatever. Then again, if there ever was such a thing as a "Fresno/Los Angeles band," then these boys would be it.
The riffola is straight outta Chicago, with more than a nod to Black Flag-style throttling. So, y'know, something of a revamp (though not exactly modernizing) of the whole Touch and Go ethic.
Which, of course, is something that I simply can't pass up. These guys tear holes in the universe and then meander on a tangent or two. That's style, ladies and gentlemen. The sort of thing that makes a band great.
And maybe Fay Wrays will become great one of these days. This album came out last year, but it just pricked my ears this summer. No worries. It will continue to make my eardrums bleed for years to come. Most excellent.
This is Jeremy Fisher's fifth album, and he's got that easy confidence that really makes folky pop-rock songs sing. And don't discount him just because he's Canadian. That's not right.
And beside the point, anyway. Fisher is not a morose troubadour. He writes songs that flash with brilliant joy. While he supplements folk construction with some more complex forms, he extraordinarily successful at crafting sing-alongs.
One time through the chorus, and you're set. Oh, and they're good choruses, too. The hook factor is high. And in case you misread my "morose" statement, Fisher explores many emotions in his pieces. He just tends to finish things up by walking out of the rain.
It's far too easy to love this album. Fisher is an old pro, but he's still got plenty of fresh energy to keep these songs rolling. Lovely stuff.
Digging in the Dirt: Home Recordings 1976
These are the demos for Fosson's long-lost Takoma (as in Takoma Park, where I live) Records album. That album was finally released back in 2006, and these tapes surfaced some time later.
Back in the mid-70s, Fosson was a 12-string instrumentalist, rather than the more traditional songer-songwriter he is today. The songs here are original compositions (except for Gene Autry's "Back in the Saddle Again"), but they have the feel of the Appalachian piedmont finger-pickin' blues. The 12-string guitar adds a few layers, but at their heart a lot of these songs sound like they're the direct descendants of the old stuff played by Elizabeth Cotton and others.
Fosson did add plenty of his own ideas, including a fair chunk of classical guitar. Those flourishes help to make these songs sound timeless. The sound is immaculate; it's hard to believe these recordings came from almost 40-year-old tapes.
A more intimate affair than the Takoma album, despite sharing many of the same songs. Fosson says he likes these recordings better, and it's easy to hear why. Entrancing.