Today I wrap up three days’ worth of reviews of new music. Dig if you will.
The Pollyseeds – Sounds of Crenshaw, Vol. 1
As far as I know, none of the music on Sounds of Crenshaw Vol. 1 is used on the soundtrack of the Amazon Original series Bosch, but – like that crime drama – the music is wonderfully evocative of the mishmash of stylistic juxtapositions that is Los Angeles. Strong elements of soul, jazz, hip-hop and r&b are filtered through the thirteen tunes on the disc. The music works as well as background as it does for active listening. A host of guest artists feature on various tracks, but Sounds of Crenshaw is nonetheless a cohesive whole. Please, oh please, make that “Vol. 1” true and release a second volume.
Sidewalk Society – Strange Roads
A conceptual cousin to Kris Gietkowski’s Three of a Kind (reviewed previously), this set includes modern-day remakes of songs original recorded by The Action. What? You’re not familiar with The Action? Well, unless you’re a freakbeat aficionado or a George Martin fetishist, that’s not surprising. Good luck finding a single written discussion of The Action’s posthumously-released Rolled Gold that doesn’t include the phrase “lost classic. “ Really, it’s that good. But those recordings are demos, and would have been even better had they been done properly as studio recordings. Sidewalk Society to the rescue: the Long Beach, California group has recreated Rolled Gold, polishing and giving the songs its own stamp but maintaining the feel of the originals.
Mike Stern – Trip
Last year, acclaimed guitarist Mike Stern experienced a freak accident. He tripped on construction debris on the streets of New York City, breaking both of his arms. His recovery was slow and painful. But you’d never know it form the playfully-named Trip. The former Miles Davis sideman makes deeply melodic and kinetic instrumental music, and displays the mark of a consummate, assured professional: he shares the spotlight with his fellow musicians. But don’t worry; he still shreds like mad, right out of the gate. Trip is thrilling stuff, start to finish. Even when it’s (relatively) mellow, the music is exciting.
The Suburbs – Hey Muse!
Hey, remember the Suburbs from back in the 80s? Me neither. But that – in and of itself – doesn’t mean they weren’t any good; a lot of great artists slipped by my notice while I was busy digging Rain Parade, the Pandoras and Wire Train (to name but three). Viewed (okay, listened to) without the context of their earlier material, Hey Muse! is a fine album. The songs have appealing melodies with a slightly dark ambience – a bit like the Church crossed with the Stranglers plus a bit of the old Bowie, perhaps – an an 80s aesthetic that goes easy on the dated trappings of that era’s sounds. There’s a dance-oriented undercurrent to songs like “Lost You on the Dance Floor” (okay, that’s a crushingly obvious example, but still). Despite the fact that this is a big group – nine people, the same number as Slipknot, possibly the largest waste of talent in popular music – the Suburbs sport a pleasingly economy of sound. Worth seeking out.
The Veldt – The Shocking Fuzz of Your Electric Fur EP
An alluring cross between chillwave, shoegaze and soul, the Veldt’s latest EP is thing of sonic beauty. Not to make too much of the fact that several members of the Raleigh, NC-based band are persons of color, but the soul music elements that inform their music might not be as prominent otherwise. As it is, there’s a solid bottom-end and – dare I say – groove to these ethereal, hypnotic tunes, the likes of which you won’t find in like-minded acts like Cocteau Twins. Amid swirling, squalling guitars and trip-hop drum loops are massed chorus of gospel-flavored backing vocal choruses. It’s heady stuff, and heartily recommended. Laid-back psychedelia for moderns.
Various Artists – Red Hot: A Memphis Celebration of Sun Records
The current crop of what we’re now calling Americana has brought to prominence some wonderfully creative individuals. Jimbo Mathus, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Luther Dickinson and Valerie June are just a handful. Veteran icon Bobby Rush is another. Happily, this various-artists project features all of ’em and others besides. With a classic mindset, those acts variously digs up gems from Sun’s heyday. You’ll know some of the tunes, like “Sure to Fall” (covered here by June with help from Mathus and Amy LaVere). Others may be less familiar (John Paul Keith’s reading of “Red Cadillac and a Black Moustache”) but are equally worthwhile. The cast of Sun Records turns in a fun reading of “Red Hot,” and modern-day wild man Mathus tears into the Killer’s “High School Confidential.” The house band is on fire when it needs to be, subtle when called for. A consistently enjoyable listen.