Hundred-word Reviews December 2021 #2

Welcome back for another round of capsule commentaries concerning current creations.

Onetwothree – (untitled)
What might happen if Trio (“Da Da Da”), Nina Hagen and Neu! got together for a giggle? Well, it might sound a bit like this supremely wonderful pop confection. An all-female group from Switzerland, Onetwothree sounds like Gang of Four in a really good mood, and with a keyboard player joining in the fun. The throbbing, hypnotically insistent corkscrew bass work reminds me of Sara Lee circa The League of Gentlemen. The vocals conjure memories of The Flying Lizards’ deconstruction of “Money.” The fact that all three members play bass – really! – has a lot to do with the group’s sound.

The Bobalows – Flatlands
If I’m honest, when I see the label “Americana,” I’m disinclined to be interested in pursuing further. But when I do make exceptions, I’m occasionally rewarded with something that moves me. That happened with The Bobalows’ debut. This Mississippi group has a sound closer to Gin Blossoms, with the added treat of lead guitar that’s highly reminiscent of David Lindley’s work for Jackson Browne. As it happens, the guitarist is Scott Coopwood, who also wrote all the songs and produced this fine effort. Flatlands is better described as an EP rather than an album (it has seven thematically linked songs).

Victor Krummenacher – Silver Smoke of Dreams
You may know Krummenacher from Camper van Beethoven or Monks of Doom (or even The Third Mind or Mushroom). And if you do, you’ll know to expect something from his solo work that’s both compelling and eclectic, drawing astutely from across the musical landscape. The songs, created during the pandemic, have a passionate, contemplative and heartfelt character very much in keeping with the inward trajectory upon which many of us found ourselves in 2020. But the songs are really, really good, and if you let them, they’ll draw you in. Krummenacher expresses emotion without getting mawkish or trafficking in cliché.

Chantel McGregor – Shed Sessions Vols. One and Two
Speaking (as we inevitably must) of the infernal pandemic, the lockdown did bring out the best in some creative corners. British guitarist Chantel McGregor is thought of primarily as a blues artist, but in response to being off the road and holed up at home, she embarked on a project called The Shed Sessions. A weekly show performed online, it found her covering the work of others. The first volume is acoustic and focuses on well-known songs. The second, more interesting volume goes electric, featuring original material aside superb readings of songs by Steven Wilson, Radiohead and the Gershwins. Recommended.

David Christian & the Pinecone Orchestra – For Those We Met on the Way
I don’t know why it is, but when British artists take a swing at making a kind of music more associated with heartland America, they often hit the sweet spot. And that’s true even if their background isn’t steeped in Americana or whatever you’d call it. Nick Lowe and Robyn Hitchcock are exemplars of the point I’m attempting to make here. And so is David Christian. Evocatively subtitled “Homemade dreams from the lonesome green,” this album is Christian’s equivalent to what The Dream Syndicate’s Steve Wynn did on Kerosene Man. The warm ambiance is furthered by the album’s guest musicians.