I’m on my honeymoon this week, so I thought it would be a good time to offer up some backlog-clearing entries in my occasional series of Hundred Word Reviews. And though the musical styles are all over the map, there’s a theme of sorts this time: each of the acts reviewed has been covered previously, either via review or feature/interview.
The series wraps up – for now – with looks at new music from American artists.
Steve Wynn – Sketches in Spain
This Omnivore Recordings
collection isn’t exactly a reissue: the albums from which the 19 tracks are drawn (Smack Dab
and Australian Blonde
) were released only in Spain. Sounding like a cross between Television and Gang of Four, Smack Dab
prominently features Linda Pitmon
‘s thundering bass. The even-earlier (but released later) Australian Blonde
material is surprisingly poppy, shimmering ear candy that may come as a shock to those familiar with Wynn’s other work. Some unexpected and thematically linked covers (Three Dog Night
‘s “Never Been to Spain,” Los Bravos
‘ “Black is Black”) showcase Wynn’s latent skill at interpreting the work of others.
Alarm Clock Conspiracy – Harlequin
Back in early 2012 I championed their first album
, but on Harlequin
, this Asheville NC-based quartet has seriously
raised the bar. Thanks in large part to the songwriting prowess of two very different composers (guitarists Chris Carter
and Ian Reardon
) the album is a near-perfect balance of powerpop, Southern rock and progressive-leaning rock. Reardon’s title track hints at what “modern country” could sound like if the genre didn’t, y’know, suck
. The soaring yet understated harmonies on Carter’s “Thinking Of” are delightful. It wouldn’t surprise me to see this album picked up by a larger label and reissued. Buy this disc.
The Squires of the Subterrain – s/t
As on the last outing
from this “group” (Christopher Earl
and occasional guests), this disc – either self-titled or called Stereo
– feels like a lo-fi update of The Beach Boys
era. That said, its most modern corollary might be Olivia Tremor Control
; Earl and those Elephant 6 guys share a common aesthetic vision. Ba-ba-ba vocalisms rest comfortably aside jangly guitars and intentionally gauzy production. With its chirpy horn section and chiming backing, “History” weds Sgt. Pepper
stylings to Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass
. With his deft way around a melody, Earl could be labeled America’s Martin Newell
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