Archive for the ‘pop’ Category

Album Review: Marshall Crenshaw — #392: The EP Collection

Friday, September 25th, 2015

For better or worse (actually, for better and worse) things used to be different: recording artists focused on their music, and the record company – or at least artist management – tended to business matters. Today that paradigm rarely exists: the artist is expected – no, s/he is all but required – to give time and effort to the task of marketing. In practical terms, that means the artist is expected to engage with his or her fan base in a way unimaginable even a decade ago. As a co-panelist of mine at a recent discussion on social media (look for my feature on that panel, coming soon to this space) put it, “Led Zeppelin never had to interact with their fans on Facebook.”

Now, for many artists, this works fine: cutting out the middleman (hilariously and accurately personified in This is Spinal Tap‘s Artie Fufkin of Polymer Records) is often a good thing, allowing participants to engage in a two-way dialogue that benefits all. If you’re an introverted artist, well, the new reality may pose some challenges.

Back in the 1970s heyday of rock, mega-platinum acts such as Fleetwood Mac and Pink Floyd could go two, three or more years between album releases, and still count on a groundswell of support when they finally got around to releasing something new. But today’s music consumer (and I use that term advisedly) has a shorter attention span: give us something new and give it to us often, they seem to say to the artist, or we’ll forget you and move on.

Happily, a growing number of artists have found a way to bend their creative muse toward this new way of thinking. Which, finally, brings me to #392: The EP Collection, the latest album from Marshall Crenshaw.

As he explains in the disc’s liner notes, “This is a compilation album, containing tracks from a series of 6 vinyl EPs that I did between April 2012 and April 2015.” So from one point of view – that of the CD consumer – #392 is a new album. While from another angle, it’s indeed a compilation, collection, reissue, what-have-you. Either way, it’s another serving of solid, tuneful and memorable guitar-pop from a master of the style.

The approach used to bring #392 to market isn’t exactly new: Todd Rundgren‘s PatroNet project was – as is so often the case with Rundgren – a bit too far ahead of its time, but it did offer hardcore fans a number of hear-it-here-first exclusives, assuming they could get the files down their 28.8kbps phone-line modems. So in 2000, Todd abandoned his pledge not to release any more traditional albums, and compiled most of the PatroNet content as One Long Year.

Now, some fifteen years later, Marshall Crenshaw has been successful with a release program not at all dissimilar to Rundgren’s 1990s concept. He’s achieved the now-important goal of keeping his name (and likeness, and music) in front of his fan base via the release of a series of 10” vinyl extended-play records. Those were welcomed by longtime fans (count me as one), and the new CD provides product that’s a bit more practical for the mainstream music consumer (read: one without a turntable).

Not to get too inside-baseball, but because Crenshaw switched again and again between publicists over the course of releasing the six vinyl EPs – and because some publicists were, shall we say, better than others at getting the word out to reviewers – I didn’t even hear about the fifth and sixth installments, Move Now and Grab the Next Train. So even for someone who’s done his best to keep up with the man’s music, I’m delighting in new-to-me music on #392.

The original EPs had an intriguing format, though one not always followed slavishly: a new song, a reinvention of a classic number from Crenshaw’s catalog, and an interesting cover tune. The new songs are uniformly excellent, and suggest that the meted-out-over-time approach is a good one for Crenshaw the songwriter (though he’s not exactly known for weak tunes). “I Don’t See You Laughing Now” is perhaps the best among these, a slice of classic, chiming Crenshaw. “Move Now” is vaguely reminiscent of Gin Blossoms. “Red Wine” has a lovely Parisian feel, thanks to Rob Morsberger‘s accordion. “Driving and Dreaming” takes its time to unfold and reveal its charms, but it’s worth the wait. “Stranger and Stranger” demonstrates yet again Crenshaw’s knack for turning out a memorable melody and lyrics that connect emotionally.

The covers are all left-field choices that give listeners a window into the eclectic world of music that has influenced Crenshaw. “No Time” must surely be one of the very few covers – by anyone, ever – of very early Electric Light Orchestra. In Crenshaw’s hands, the Jeff Lynne-penned tune is pared back to a simpler arrangement than on the first ELO record, but it’s simply lovely. The welcome presence of Mellotron does imbue Crenshaw’s reading with just the right level of dated-ness.

Also delightful is Crenshaw’s heartfelt reading of the Burt Bacharach/Hal David classic “(They Long to Be) Close to You.” Here it’s not mawkish, and feels very much at home on the varied collection that is #392. Bobby Fuller‘s “Never to Be Forgotten” is a solo Crenshaw arrangement – he does it all on this track – and his thrumming twelve-string is a tasty tribute to Fuller’s talent. And the electric sitar on James McMurtry‘s “Right Here Now” is guaranteed ear candy. Crenshaw’s readings of tunes by The Lovin’ Spoonful (an easy-listening version of “Didn’t Want to Have to Do It”) and The Easybeats (rocking out on “Made My Bed, Gonna Lie In It”) have undeniable appeal as well.

Crenshaw’s rethinking of his old tunes might, however, be problematic for some longtime fans. And perhaps that’s why none of those EP cuts – often drastically changed remakes of “Someday, Someway,” Mary Anne” and other timeless classics – found their way onto #392. The live version of “ There She Goes Again” with The Bottle Rockets (found on the I Don’t See You Laughing Now EP) would have made a nice addition, however.

#392 is formatted so that the first six tracks are the EP title cuts, and the next six are selected from among the dozen or so remaining vinyl tracks. Wisely – and with a commendable eye toward the commercial value-for-money side of things – Crenshaw has seen fit to append a pair of bonus tracks to #392: The EP Collection, a pair of tunes not found on the vinyl EP releases. The Everly Brothers‘ “Man With Money” gives CD purchasers a chance to hear Crenshaw live and ably supported by The Bottle Rockets; their version recalls the arrangement that The Who used when they featured the tune in their late ’60s live sets.

Crenshaw wraps up the disc with what he describes as a demo recording of a new song co-written with Leroy Preston, “Front Page News.” Even in demo form, it displays all of the hallmarks of Crenshaw’s singing, playing, and writing: talents that have made him a national treasure. At press time, there’s no word whether Crenshaw will continue the schedule of frequent EP releases, or whether he’ll follow his muse down some other path. Either way, it’s a story worth following.

You may also enjoy:

Yep, one might say that I’m a fan.

Follow “the_musoscribe” on Twitter and get notified
when new features, reviews and essays are published.


Album Mini-review: The Jean-Paul Sartre Experience — I Like Rain

Friday, September 18th, 2015

File Next to: The Chills, The Clean, Straitjacket Fits

Sporting a playful name (eventually shortened in response to lawsuits) that had less than nothing to do with their sound, this New Zealand band was a prime exponent of the Flying Nun Records sound and aesthetic. With a DIY production approach and relatively unadorned arrangements, the JPS Experience crafted music that brought to mind Teenage Fanclub sitting on comfy couches, or Loaded-era Velvet Underground leaning even more in a timeless pop direction. The band never once dented the charts outside their island homeland, and mustered relatively little chart action there. But their lack of commercial success belies the charms found within their music. In the same way that America’s garage rock explosion of the mid 60s created hundreds of worthy tracks that never got a wide hearing, the Kiwi pop explosion of 1980s New Zealand went mostly unheard outside that small country. Albeit belatedly, this best-of helps correct that injustice.

Follow “the_musoscribe” on Twitter and get notified
when new features, reviews and essays are published

Album Mini-review: Pugwash — Play This Intimately (As If Among Friends)

Friday, September 18th, 2015

File Next to: Fountains of Wayne, XTC, Electric Light Orchestra

This may just be the effort that pays off for guitarist-singer-songwriter Thomas Walsh and his bandmates. The Dublin-based band has released six albums, including three – count ‘em: three – best-ofs on three different labels. Though critically acclaimed, Pugwash haven’t gained traction in the American marketplace. Until now, that is. Play This Intimately is their first album of new material to get a proper stateside release, and it’s filled to the brim with Pugwash’s brand of preternaturally melodic, catchy pop-rock. The group is often compared to XTC (they were on Andy Partridge‘s Ape label for awhile, and Partridge guests on the new album) and ELO (Jeff Lynne makes a fleeting appearance as well), but Pugwash truly have a style of their own. “Kicking and Screaming” boasts one of Walsh’s strongest melodies, and that’s saying something. Play This Intimately is a winning balance of power and subtlety, of brashness and nuance.

Follow “the_musoscribe” on Twitter and get notified
when new features, reviews and essays are published

Album Mini-review: Bill Wyman — Back to Basics

Friday, September 18th, 2015

File next to: Pete Townshend’s Deep End, Ian Dury

During his time (1962-1993) with the Rolling Stones, bassist Bill Wyman released three albums that displayed his particular (if low-key) musical sensibilities. After the success of his friends-and-all project Willie & the Poor Boys, he adopted that approach for his long-running aggregation, The Rhythm Kings. That busman’s holiday aggregation was a low-pressure way for Wyman to hang out with talented friends, focusing on live dates and albums that presented beloved covers from early- and pre-rock’n'roll eras. Back to Basics employs a similar method: it features straightforward, polished musicality, wry lyrical wordplay, and Wyman’s gravelly, unprepossessing vocals that recall the late Ian Dury. Whether one would call the album “consistent” or “samey” likely has much to do with how one feels about Wyman’s understated and unpretentious musical approach in general. The bottom line is that it pleases Wyman, and as he approaches his eightieth birthday in October 2016, that’s success enough.

Follow “the_musoscribe” on Twitter and get notified
when new features, reviews and essays are published

Hundred-word Reviews for September, Part 8 of 8

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015

This current round of hundred-word reviews wraps up with four archival/reissue releases from the fine folks at Omnivore Recordings, and a self-released retrospective form an overlooked Nashville group.

Raging Fire – Everything is Roses: Anthology 1985-1989
The nexus wherein country and punk styles meet has been explored by a number of noteworthy bands: X and Lone Justice are two that come immediately to mind. Far less-known was Nashville’s Raging Fire. Singer Melora Zaner wrote songs that explored feminism, an all-too-uncommon perspective in popular music. Everything is Roses brings together the band’s 1985 debut EP A Family Thing, their 1986 album Faith Love Was Made Of, a clutch of unreleased material documenting the group up through the end of the 80s, and a pretty ace new track, “More Than This” (most definitely not a Roxy Music cover).

Dion – Recorded Live at The Bitter End, August 1971

Dion was always more than a pop singer; the best of his folk-protest material combined the earnest approach of Phil Ochs with a more commercially-leaning voice that could please fans of singer/songwriters like James Taylor. This crystal clear recording documents a solo set at the legendary NYC folk club. Occasionally acoustic readings of rock’n'roll tunes (“Too Much Monkey Business”) are scattered among the more folk-styled material (“Abraham, Martin and John,” “One Too Many Mornings”). “The Wanderer” and “Ruby Baby” are here, of course; what – thankfully – isn’t present is any hint of his later somewhat heavy-handed Christian conservative perspective.

Andrew Gold – The Late Show: Live 1978

Pity poor Andrew Gold. He came along when edgier styles were taking hold. A solid craftsman who sang and played well – and could create material that teetered right on the edge of power pop – he was nonetheless pegged as a bit lightweight. Songs like the smash hit “Thank You for Being a Friend” (later revived as the theme song for The Golden Girls) may have scored him hits, but they didn’t help his hip cred a single bit. Against that backdrop, this live set from his biggest tour is quite good, and rocks more than one might expect.

The Textones – Midnight Mission

The Carla Olson-with-Rickenbacker-guitar photo that graces the cover of Midnight Mission all but says “female Tom Petty.” And that’s not too wide of the mark; the music sounds a bit like Petty crossed with Dwight Twilley (Twilley’s supremely talented musical partner Phil Seymour played drums in The Textones). Gunshot snare drums and dated synthesizer textures make the album sonics very much of its time (1984) but the performances and songwriting transcend the period-piece feel of the production. Mark Leviton‘s fascinating liner note essay places the group into a social-historical-political context that includes the presidential campaign of independent candidate John Anderson.

The Textones – Cedar Creek

Midnight Mission didn’t sell, and The Textones lost their record deal. Meanwhile, the illness that would eventually end Phil Seymour’s life began to take hold, and the band was forced to replace him. Against that backdrop, it’s a bit surprising just how good Cedar Creek is. The of-the-time production values are dialed back, giving the album a more timeless feel. Here, The Textones occasionally sound like Linda Ronstadt backed by a harder-rocking Jackson Browne and band. The bonus, an “oft-bootlegged” 1987 live show proves that Cedar Creek was – unlike its predecessor – an accurate document of the band’s sound.

Hundred-word Reviews for September, Part 6 of 8

Monday, September 7th, 2015

Today I take quick looks at excellent reissue and compilation releases from three labels that excel at that kind of thing: Omnivore Recordings, Light in the Attic and Real Gone Music.

Low Down Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

The 2014 film tells the story of jazz pianist Joe Albany and his (ultimately unsuccessful) attempts to break free of his heroin addiction. Though he played for a time with Charlie Parker, Albany’s not especially well known. This carefully-chosen collection of songs for the film presents seven Albany pieces, placing them into the musical context of works by Coleman Hawkins, Max Roach, and Thelonious Monk. Pieces from contemporary jazz artist Ohad Talmor‘s film score are featured as well, and his music fits into the album like a glove. Albany’s “Lush Life” is florid (in a good way) and sonically stunning.

Lizzy Mercier Descloux – Press Color

When considering pop music history, 1979 isn’t often recalled as a year of innovation. But this album from this French (relocated to NYC) no wave and visual artist is some pretty edgy stuff. In retrospect, one can hear hints of approaches and textures that would be adopted by Blondie, The Talking Heads, and Grace Jones, just to name three. A sometime collaborator with Patti Smith, Descloux’s chirpy, come-hither voice should have taken off commercially. Hell, Monkees choreographer Toni Basil would have a hit not long thereafter. Unlike much from that era, Press Color doesn’t sound dated these thirty-odd years later.

Carl Hall – You Don’t Know Nothing About Love: The Loma/Atlantic Recordings 1967-1972

The saga of popular music is strewn with also-rans: worthy artists who, for one or another reason, simply didn’t break through to the big time, deserving as they might be. This collection showcases shoulda-been-hits from this soulful-est of soul singers. With production values in the Muscle Shoals/Memphis “southern soul” style, many of the nineteen tracks on this disc have what it takes to have made the charts. Thing is, only six – count ‘em: six – were ever released. The rest remained in the can until 21st century music archivists unearthed them. It’s a staggeringly significant musical find; hear it.

Ben E. King – The Complete Atco/Atlantic Singles Vol. 1: 1960-1966

Everybody knows “Stand By Me.” Fine a tune as it might be, it’s overplayed nearly to the level of “Free Bird” and “Mustang Sally.” And for most, it’s all they know of the deep catalog of Ben E. King. Okay: some of you can cite “Spanish Harlem,” too. But King was stunningly prolific, as this fifty-track (two discs) illustrates. And the quality standard is high, showcasing wonderfully arranged pop-soul. Much of King’s material was penned (and sometimes arranged) by Brill Building legends such as Carole King (no relation, of course). Keep a watchful ear and eye out for Volume 2.

Dusty Springfield – Faithful

The CD’s back-cover blurb tells you nearly everything you need to know: “Here, for the first time, are all the songs that Dusty Springfield recorded with producer Jeff Barry in 1971 for what was intended to be her third album (and a non-album single) for Atlantic Records. The album never came out and only four of the tracks were originally released as singles.” It’s every bit as good as that description implies. Joe Marchese‘s liner notes explain why the album never came out, and he provides additional background on the songs and sessions. Springfield’s Faithful is a heretofore unheard gem.

Follow “the_musoscribe” on Twitter and get notified
when new features, reviews and essays are published

Hundred-word Reviews for September, Part 5 of 8

Friday, September 4th, 2015

Lightening the mood a bit today with some power-pop leaning releases, leavened with some heavier, more adventurous sounds.

The Prime Ministers – Youngstown Milk Run
Don’t allow yourself to be put off by the song titles that make use of tired Prince-isms (“Can U B My Dreams,” “I Wait 4 Your Guitar”). The songs are better than all that. Betraying a strong influence of mainstream 80s rock (Huey Lewis, but don’t hold that against ‘em either), the eleven songs on this disc are catchy, rocking stuff. Sure, the occasional hip-hop vocal break is jarring, leaving a vaguely Smash Mouth flavor behind, but let’s not hold that against the band either. If you liked 80s FM radio, you won’t find this music past its sell-by date.

Gretchen’s Wheel – Fragile State
Gretchen’s Wheel is Lindsay Murray, a singer songwriter from smalltown Tennessee. On Fragile State, she handles songwriting, vocals and the lion’s share of instrumentation. The remaining instruments and production engineering duties are the domain of Ken Stringfellow (The Posies). Murray’s sturdy, inviting songs tread the space between singer/songwriter and midtempo power pop. The songs occasionally remind one of Warner Brothers era Badfinger. There’s a subtle country (the good kind!) influence imbued into the arrangement; this album rewards the listener who spends time with it. Sources say that another album is on its way soon; that’s welcome news in these quarters.

Ligro – Dictionary 3
Liner notes author Dr. Brad Stone makes the point that jazz isn’t always mellow and relaxing. It certainly isn’t on this five-track album on the MoonJune label from this guitar/bass/drums trio. The textures are warm and inviting, but there’s an adventurous spirit at work that keeps things interesting. With a high melodic quotient, and lots of engaging interplay between the instrumentalists, Dictionary 3 is an enjoyable listen start to finish. And because of its relatively accessible character, it might be a good entry point (for your non progjazz-inclined friends) into the world of MoonJune artists. Tasty piano on track one.

Blurred Vision – Organized Insanity

Chiming melodies and massed (chorused/overdubbed) vocals give the songs on Organized Insanity a feel not wholly unlike some of Crowded House‘s work. It’s a safe bet that these songs are “about stuff,” as the first track (“No More War”) features clips from a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The trio ostensibly plays guitar/bass/drums, but lots of electric piano, south-of-the-border horns and banjos (all but the first are uncredited) add nicely to the texture. One’s predilection toward message-y music (see also: U2) will surely indicate how one will react to this music. Often anthemic, often swinging for the fences.

Godsticks – Emergence
In the music biz, everything has to have a label; I believe the label for this music is “active rock.” You might also call it “aggressive progressive.” Musically akin to some of Porcupine Tree‘s more metallic moments (circa Fear of a Blank Planet), on Emergence Godsticks gets the chunka-chunka vibe down tight, with a vocalist who reminds this listener of Eddie Vedder. Punishingly precise riffage underpins the songs; only one track features keyboards; otherwise it’s power trio and vocals pretty much all the way. “Much Sinister” sounds like its title suggests. The Pineapple Thief‘s Bruce Soord guest-vocals on two tracks.

Follow “the_musoscribe” on Twitter and get notified
when new features, reviews and essays are published.

Hundred-word Reviews for September, Part 4 of 8

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

More quickie reviews today. Some familiar names, some not-so-well-known ones. All worth a spin.

John Wetton – New York Minute
This disc – recorded live at New York City’s Iridium in fall 2013 – has an odd, busman’s holiday quality about it. Though Wetton is pictured with a guitar, on the record he’s just singing. He’s backed by The Les Paul Trio, an outfit named not for who’s in it, but instead for the man who founded it. Save for a couple of tracks, this set finds Wetton covering other people’s songs. Steely Dan, Marvin Gaye, The Beach Boys, Traffic, Dylan by way of Hendrix, and The Beatles all get the treatment. It’s good, but it does feel a bit…pointless.

Holly Golightly and The Brokeoffs – Coulda Shoulda Woulda
This is Golightly’s other 2015 album; her solo-billed Slowtown Now! is wonderfully eclectic and recommended. Here with her band (and Lawyer Dave) she’s less stylistically varied but an equally rewarding listen. Golightly’s a kindred spirit with such names as Wanda Jackson, The Cramps, and JD McPherson. Imagine if rock ‘n’ roll hadn’t splintered and “evolved” into myriad forms, and Coulda Shoulda Woulda might give clues to how it would sound today: full of c&w’s lyricism, and rock’s energy. The delightfully “live” mix suits the songs perfectly, and Golightly’s humor is never far from the surface (check “Apartment 34” for evidence).

Mick Abrahams – Revived!
Quick question: who was the guitarist in Jethro Tull? Answer: Martin Barre. Right? Well…yes. But the original axeman in Ian Anderson‘s folk-prog group was none other than Mick Abrahams. In those days Tull was a bluesier outfit; it was disagreement over the group’s musical direction that led to Abrahams’ exit. Revived! is a 17-track set (plus bonus DVD) that features Abrahams and a passel of musical pals (including Barre, Bill Wyman, Bernie Marsden and others. It’s a varied set that recalls Wyman’s solo work more than anything else, most notably on a cover of Lieber/Stoller‘s Coasters classic “What About Us?”

Anton Fig – Figments
Anton Fig is an in-demand drummer best known as a longtime member of Paul Shaffer‘s band on David Letterman‘s TV program. In 2002 he recorded and released a solo album (newly reissued in 2015), Figments, featuring a selection of guests from his (no doubt) ample Rolodex. Fig plays other instruments besides drums, but the passel of guests gives the disc most of its character. Very much of its time, Figments sounds a bit like a Mike + the Mechanics disc. Players include Blondie Chaplin, Sebastian Bach, Ace Frehley, Chris Spedding, Shaffer (naturally!), Randy Brecker, Chip Taylor, and many, many more.

Caddy – The Better End
Dreamy, gauzy, vaguely shoegazey pop a la Teenage Fanclub crossed with The Church is the order of the day on The Better End. Less densely textured than either of those groups, the music is nonetheless well-crafted and immediately likable. For all intents and purposes, Caddy is Tomas Dahl, with the occasional guest vocalist. Dahl is Norwegian, but you’d be hard-pressed to find any trace of a Nordic accent in his vocals. The melancholy ambience of the songs is redolent of Starling Electric, full of shimmering guitars and ringing chords that hang in the air. Available only from Kool Kat Musik. [ORDER HERE]

Follow “the_musoscribe” on Twitter and get notified
when new features, reviews and essays are published

Hundred-word Reviews for September (sic), Part 1 of 8

Monday, August 31st, 2015

Time to clear the backlog of discs – worthy ones all – cluttering my office. Beginning today, and occasionally interrupted by other content, here’s a solid two weeks of hundred-word reviews.

Terell Stafford – BrotherLee Love

Lee Morgan was a hard bop trumpeter who recorded between the mid 1950s and 1971, mostly for the Blue Note label. His most renowned sideman session was John Coltrane‘s Blue Trane (1957), and he was a longtime member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. On this album, Philadelphia-based trumpeter Stafford pays homage to Morgan. Stafford and a tight four-piece run through nine cuts associated with – and nearly all composed by – the late Morgan. Tasty stuff indeed, rendered in adventurous hard bop style. Plenty of solo breaks make this a worthwhile listen even for those who don’t know Morgan’s work.

Alison Faith Levy – The Start of Things

Former Sippy Cups member Levy records for Mystery Lawn Music, a label renowned for its intelligent power pop and art-pop artist stable. Levy makes music for kids, but her appeal extends far beyond the tot-rocking set. The lyrics are squarely aimed at youngsters, but not in a saccharine-sweet manner; Levy never “sings down” to her audience. And adults will find plenty to like in the music and arrangements. Levy’s music truly does bridge the gap between music for children and for grown-ups; in that way she’s heir to the music of The Banana Splits, nearly always a very good thing.

The Lucky Losers – A Winning Hand

To my ears, most modern blues is stale and uninspired. I can’t think of another genre that cranks out so much dull material. So when an exception comes along, it’s all that ore remarkable. Cathy Lemons and Phil Berkowitz sing together in harmony, and trade vocal lines on this album’s dozen tunes, backed by a solid but not showy) band and horn section. They capture the fun and excitement of a bluesy band in a dimly lit bar. And at its core, that’s what modern blues is about. That Berkowitz is a skilled blues harpist only adds to the enjoyment.

Otis Taylor – Hey Joe Opus: Red Meat
Sixty-seven year old bluesman Otis Taylor has a long and storied career. This idiosyncratic outing finds the multi-instrumentalist and singer constructing a sort of song cycle built around the chestnut “Hey Joe.” His readings don’t recall Hendrix or The Leaves; no, they have more of an Americana feel. Some of the guitar work recalls The Allman Brothers (thanks to guest Warren Haynes), and the musical dialogue between guitar and fiddle) has shades of Jefferson Airplane with Papa John Creach. Extensive use of cornet (Taylor Scott) adds an interesting character to the songs. On the whole, exceedingly eclectic, understated, and worthwhile.

Phil Lee – Some Gotta Lose…

Lee’s previous album, The Fall & Further Decline of the Mighty King of Love, knocked me out with its windswept singer-songwriter vibe. He reminds me a bit of James McMurtry crossed with Leon Russell, and his music is equally informed by blues, Americana, old-school country and plain old rock’n'roll. Some Gotta Lose… is another showcase for Lee’s well-worn voice. This is as real as it gets, straightforward poetry and stories set to music. One of these days, he and I really will meet up for that cup of coffee; until that day, I’ll enjoy his music on this shiny disc.

Follow “the_musoscribe” on Twitter and get notified
when new features, reviews and essays are published.

Album Mini-review: Chappo — Future Former Self

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

File next to: Edwin Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Tame Impala

If you’re the kind of person who loved Flaming Lips‘ output circa Clouds Taste Metallic through Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, but feel they subsequently went off the rails and/or ran out of ideas, you’d do well to check out Chappo. With a sound at times reminiscent of Tame Impala, Chappo wraps pop melodies in arrangements that touch on synth-rock, psych, garage and Apples in Stereo styled chirpy pop. Seemingly disparate left-field elements like trip-hop percussion and wide-eyed psych-folk vocals unexpectedly combine seamlessly with ambitious arrangements that suggest an indie-rock rethink of Jellyfish. Funky/soulful guitars a la Beck are out front one moment, and the next thing you know, the melody’s floating on a pillowy synthesizer bed. Future Former Self is all over the musical map, but somehow it all works in a cohesive manner. If you want an album with a definable “sound,” look elsewhere. For adventure, look here.

Follow “the_musoscribe” on Twitter and get notified
when new features, reviews and essays are published.