About once a month I like to visit my “in for review” shelf and pull out some titles that I’ve been meaning to get to for some time. For whatever reason, other projects or reviews have taken precedence, causing these worthy releases to gather the odd bit of dust on my shelf. I will have made the decision awhile previously – sometimes months ago – to review each of these, but simply didn’t find the right time. So now – in no small part to assuage my conscience – I present a small collection of these 100-word reviews. All are (or at least were recently) new releases.
A Violet Pine – Turtles
Some very industrial sonic textures form the basis of this post-rock outing from the Italian trio. But don’t let that scare you off; the group’s original music is full of hooks and riffs that will hold your attention. Paolo Ormas‘ drums sometimes evoke mental images of the click-clack of a wooden roller coaster being drawn inexorably up a hill; the tension builds in these songs, and there’s a hypnotic undercurrent to all nine tunes. Splashes of electronic sounds are expertly placed into the arrangement in a way that adds intriguing texture to the songs. This one’s definitely worth your time.
The Cherry Bluestorms – Bad Penny Opera
The visual trappings of this group (album packaging and photography,etc.) suggest a kind of goth flavor, but the music is more pop-oriented than those images would suggest. Though both members of the duo (Deborah Gee and Glen Laughlin) sing, the atmospheric instrumental “Bad Penny Overture” may well be the strongest track on the disc. It’s a vaguely malevolent rethink of The Who‘s sound circa The Who Sell Out. When they do sing, the dual lead vocals sometimes suggest Belle and Sebastian. Tasty retro touches show that The Cherry Bluestorms have absorbed all the best influences and made them their own.
Bob Woodruff – The Year We Tried to Kill the Pain
Ooh, this one’s good. There’s always a welcome place on my CD shelves for heartfelt, straightforward, well-written jangling rock. And that description only hints at the appeal of Bob Woodruff’s latest. The songs all have lyrics worth absorbing, and Woodruff’s lived-in vocal manner suggests that the word pictures he paints are not solely the product of a fertile imagination. Some delightful slide and pedal steel guitar give the disc a bit of an Americana vibe, but there’s a rock sensibility that keeps things right. The album’s timeless nature promises to sound fresh and new a decade or more from now.
Nils Lofgren – UK 2015 Face the Music Tour
Though he has a deep and highly acclaimed catalog of solo releases, guitarist Nils Lofgren is known best as a member of Bruce Springsteen‘s band. Forget that and enjoy this album featuring only Lofgren’s voice and guitar (plus keyboards and – wait for it – harp!) plus multi-instrumental accompaniment from Greg Varlotta. This set was compiled from live tapes of a solo tour, and there’s an exceedingly intimate feel to the entire album. Lofgren and Varlotta do a lot with a little, as the deeply textured – yet full of guitar fireworks – “New Holes in My Old Shoes” displays.
Juju – Juju
Tribal psych from an Italian artist? Sure, why not. Adding a pulsating, danceable groove to the kind of thing the Flaming Lips used to do, Gioele Valenti weaves dense and hypnotic textures. In places the music is reminiscent of Radiohead‘s aesthetic, if not their sound. Gauzy, dense layers of sound are slathered upon one another; the result is a heady and very alluring mix. I’m told that there is an overarching theme to the lyrics, but to my ears, the vocals are just another (extremely effective) sonic ingredient. It’s a vinyl-only release from the tiny, venerable Sunrise Ocean Bender label.
Well, that didn’t make much of a dent in my backlog! More of this kind of thing soonish, as time permits.