Here’s another in my occasional series of “review roundups” in which I take a quick look at a stack of CDs that has found its way onto my desk. Each disc is worthwhile in its own way; otherwise I wouldn’t waste your and my time. But because there’s so much other material I want to cover in depth, I’ll restrict myself to brief summary remarks about these titles. Note that most of these are indie/self-released efforts; no major label releases here. So these are almost certainly titles that would otherwise slip by unnoticed by most listeners. They deserve better.
The Black Rabbits – Hypno Switch
I’m told that this group resides here in my relatively small hometown of Asheville NC. They must be recent transplants, because nobody here knows ‘em, and I don’t see their name around town. No matter: wherever they’re from, the group’s Hypno Switch is catchy, edgy indie-rock with an arrangement aesthetic that’s equal parts Interpol and classic rock. Songs like “My Baby Don’t” hook the listener early, yet unfold into something more interesting rather than remain content with a single hook. Seeming raised on a steady diet of the best of post-1960s rock – influences of the Who, the Clash and skinny-tie new wave can be heard in the various tracks – The Black Rabbits have a lot on offer. While most of the playing leans toward an ensemble approach, the interesting textures of the lead guitar solo on the title track (probably the best song on the disc, by the way) suggest that the band puts equal effort into writing the songs and delivering them in compelling ways.
Alpine White – The Hale EP
The breezy, plaintive “When She Gets Home” evokes memories of Aztec Camera and Crowded House. Assertive yet shimmering guitar lines give the songs on the EP a sort of dialed-back Belle and Sebastian vibe. San Francisco-based Alpine White craft clear, straightforward pop songs that move through interesting changes within their relatively short duration. “All the Weight” has an odd, unsettling feel to it, almost as if the drummer is slowing the beat down every now and then. There’s a contemplative, yearning feel to all four of the songs on the EP; one guesses that on a full-length, the group would expand their sonic approach a bit. But The Hale EP represents a promising start.
Abbie Barrett & the Last Date – The Triples: Volume I
Normally I don’t review three-song releases; it’s hard to get much of a bead on an artist’s approach in ten or fifteen minutes. But this one is pretty compelling. Fronted by a female vocalist who seems to sing in her natural voice — no pixie-girl or overwrought diva posturing here – the band trades in what is best described a singer-songwriter numbers (composed by the singer) delivered in a rocking fashion. A bit like Blondie without dated sonics, the songs convey a surprising amount of range. “On the Range” sounds like Ennio Morricone crossed with A Camp, and the winsome “Draw Me In” sounds like an outtake from Pink Floyd’s Obscured by Clouds (albeit with female vocals). Here’s looking forward to Volume II.
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