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KRCC’s Delvin Neugebauer reviews new releases from Amor de Días, Daedelus, Hunx and His Punx, My Morning Jacket, Thurston Moore, Sloan and Wild Hares. All the albums reviewed are recent additions to KRCC’s music library. Tune in to any of the Music Mix programs on KRCC to hear selections from these new releases.
Amor de Días
Street of the Love of Days
Amor de Días is a collaboration between guitarist/singer Alasdair MacLean of The Clientele and singer Lupe Núñez-Fernández of Pipas. The duo’s debut release, Street of the Love of Days, is an album of gentle, bucolic music built mostly on acoustic guitars, lightly brushed drums, a string quartet, a muted horn section and hushed singing. The lyrics have a very melancholy, poetic quality; they seem to share a theme of things or people (or the things that those people symbolize) being lost or fading from view, because the protagonists’ surroundings just are too soft and hazy for anyone there to keep track of things very well. Over Spanish guitar, MacLean sings in “Season of Light”: “Footsteps in the night/But tonight, the fox and owl are gone/As you vanish in the quiet/As you vanish in the lines you’ve drawn.” Quick, piercing fillips of electric guitar and droning sitar add some tension to “Stone,” as Núñez-Fernández sings, “I lie on the ground/Covered in roses/Covered in frost/My mind is frozen/The seeds and the bark/The dormant orchids/Seasons in you/The compass roses.” A reedy-sounding organ and stand-up jazz bass distinguish “Harvest Time,” making the track sound a bit like “Norwegian Wood” as MacLean sings: “Bats in the east go shivering by/Scarecrow watches the verge of light/I hear a choir on the heath at night/But no one’s there.” A blend of steel-string guitar and electric piano carries the tune of “House of Flint,” with MacLean singing, “The valley left its mark on me/The open flowers, the house of Flint/The hesitation in the leaves/The taste behind my teeth/Come on, darling, dance with me/Our fingers locked, our restless feet/They say that in the avenues/The face of God appears.” (You get the idea.) The duo starts to liven up its approach in the second half of the disc. “Birds” opens with electronic noise buzzing behind Núñez-Fernández’s soft crooning; then the track develops more structure, with stark piano and a dry rhythm section, before it ends with shortwave-radio noise. “Wandering” has a feel much like Sixties English light pop, with its calliope-like keyboard, wood block percussion and radiant, briskly strummed guitar. (By the way, fans of that particular pop sound should check out MacLean’s work with The Clientele.) Overall, Street of the Love of Days has a homey, comforting feel like a warm blanket. It might not be what a listener wants for the summer, but check it out just the same; its release might just be a bit ahead of its time.
(Ninja Tune Records)
California-born producer/DJ Alfred Darlington has kept very busy for the past decade with collaborations, as well as sustaining a career of his own. Bespoke is his twelfth album as Daedelus, his nom de plume. That may be an old-fashioned term, but so is the album’s title, and so is Darlington’s fashion sense: at DJ appearances, he chooses to wear Victorian-style suits and waistcoats. At least half the album’s titles hint at this interest in men’s fashions. The opening track, “Tailor-Made Our Way,” begins with a steady disco beat, wah-wah funk guitar and handclaps; a cool female voice comes in, along with a low-key rap from guest rapper Milosh. Strumming acoustic guitar opens “Sew, Darn, Mend”; electric guitar picks out the melody over soft ripples of piano. The drums get very lively as organ comes in to take over the melody. The veering, buzzing synths of “Penny Loafers” move over a vaguely Eastern rhythm, as guest vocalist Inara George sings, “Do you remember my number/When you are spending my change?/Do you remember the color?/Do you remember my name?/I could have you arrested/Lock you up in your prime/Do what you like when you’re rocking/When you are rocking my dime.” A very Sixties-ish lounge-style chorus sings, “Someone’s rocking, rocking, rocking …” as the track takes on a feel similar to Esquivel or Martin Denny. Busy live drums roll underneath blippy keyboards and choir in “One and Only”; guest vocalist Young Dad comes in with, “I’ve been counting from ten, standing still/Waiting to find where you have gone/It’s been seven years since I’ve known you/It will be seventy more till I’ve followed this mystery.” “Suit Yourself” begins with a brass fanfare straight out of Broadway; the jazzy piano riff of “What Can You Do?” moves over some busy trap drum rhythms, as well as a human mouth imitating a drum sound. “French Cuffs” starts with a slow, spare groove; plucked strings and skittery drums come in, and guest vocalist Baths sings in subdued French, with a cool soprano coursing through the song. “Slowercase D” opens with shortwave-radio-like noise and a handclap beat; the track takes on a spooky sci-fi sound, as a harp comes in to add accents over deep oscillating synth. It all adds up to an entertaining album whose grooves will liven up any party while still giving the guests enough breathing room to groove on each other.
Hunx and His Punx
Too Young to Be in Love
On their second album, Hunx and His Punx employ a mixture of early rock & roll styles (heavy on the Sixties girl-group sound) in the service of a classic punk sensibility not just in the musical sense, but hinting at the word punk’s earlier meaning, as prison slang for a gay male. On “Lovers Lane,” Hunx sings, “When he left, I was doing fine/I wish I would’ve kissed him one last time.” “He’s Coming Back” is a re-write of The Angels’ “My Boyfriend’s Back,” with Hunx warning, “I wasn’t lying when I told you he was coming back/And he’s a real big guy, so you had better watch your back.” In the twangy title track, the singer pines for a guy who’s just out of reach: “Why won’t you do it with me?/I wanna do it with you/You are my bad boy/My little pile of joy … It wouldn’t last too long/But it never does, does it?” Over the Fifties-ish groove of “Can We Get Together?” he sings, “I ain’t got time for those other guys/Now that you’re mine/I really don’t like wasting my time.” In another Fifties-style number, “If You’re Not Here (I Don’t Know Where You Are),” he admits, “I thought you knew that I like to lick ‘em up just like an ice cream cone/Teardrops on my telephone/And now I guess I’m alone.” The album’s closing number, “Blow Me Away,” is a slower number whose lyrics could be more of the same … or could be about a death wish (either the protagonist’s or someone else’s): “I want you to blow your troubles down the drain/I’m glad you’ll never ever have to be in pain/I want you to blow me away.” Hunx (Seth Bogart on his driver’s license) sings flirtatiously, with a hint of lovesick ache in his voice not to mention a stereotypical mincing lisp. On most of the album, though, the focus is on the band, not on his singing. (He doesn’t have much range, so his singing seems buried in the mix a lot of the time anyway.) Drummer Erin Emslie and bassist Shannon Shaw (who also fronts her own band, Shannon & the Clams) have a firm grasp of the booming, dramatic rhythms that powered a lot of Phil Spector’s productions. Amy Blaustein’s organ playing adds to the classic charm, and Michelle Santamaria’s guitar leads are sharp and economical. And the Punx (or Punkettes, as they’ve sometimes been billed) provide some great vocal harmonies to back up Hunx’ fey crooning. Too Young to Be in Love is campy, lightweight fun.
Sonic Youth may have come into its own more than twenty years ago with its late-Eighties trilogy of classics EVOL, Sister and Daydream Nation, but remarkably, its work since then has maintained a consistently high level of quality. One reason the group’s kept up its stride so well is because its members don’t let their interest get stale; they experiment frequently outside the confines of their band. Thurston Moore, Sonic Youth’s guitarist/singer, takes a busman’s holiday from his usual group on his third solo album, Demolished Thoughts. Rather than the rock groove, electric guitar grime and ghostly, ringing harmonics that Sonic Youth is famous for, Moore takes something of a chamber-pop approach on this one. His songwriting style and unforced singing remain identifiable, but on sparkling folk-pop songs like “Benediction,” “Illuminine” and “In Silver Rain with a Paper Key,” he sticks mostly with acoustic guitars. He keeps his vocal melodies pretty straightforward, letting Samara Lubelski’s soulful violin do the melodic heavy lifting while Mary Lattimore provides soft, delicate harp accents. Bassist Bram Imscore and percussionist Joey Waronker make a subtle, understated rhythm section. Moore’s sunny guitar contrasts with the solemn tone of the violin in “Blood Never Lies,” as the lyric paints a picture of taking a loved one away from some sort of institution: “Every time they come for you/You know it’s time to run/Everybody knows it’s true/That your life has come undone/Now he has his chance to take/And he will take you out of here/Take you to a secret state/Where blood is life/The blood is clear.” In “Circulation,” the artist takes a chord progression very reminiscent of Sonic Youth (although it’s on acoustic guitar). His growling undercurrent of electric guitar takes the song further still in that direction, as do the suggestions of violence in the lyric: “The perfect lights are backward/The refracted cries/Needle hits black lacquer/Speakers forgive lies/I’m not running away/The circulation makes her crazy/She’s not here to stay/She just came by to shoot you, baby.” The distorted drums rumble like tympani underneath the song’s chorus, and Lubelski’s violin gets suitably noisy in the song’s middle section. “Orchard Street” is similarly Youth-like, featuring a drawn-out jam between acoustic guitar and violin; harp and keyboards (courtesy of Beck, who produced the disc) add ghostly shivers to the tune’s ending. Framed in guitars that sound like hammered dulcimers, “Mina Loy” is a tribute to the early 20th century poet: “Found a diamond in the gutter/On an early morning freeze/In your mouth, it turns to water … I don’t care what it takes/All she wants is you to love her/Without shame.” “Space” has a slightly Celtic feel; keyboards shimmer on this track while the violin shivers and moans like whale cries. The song’s lyric could be a sci-fi-punk out-take from Daydream Nation: “I used to have all the time in the world/Cruising galaxies in search of goals/Another planet with no one home/It was only a matter of time/Before the Space Police discovered my crime/Forbidden visions etched in stone/It makes no difference to my death-wish ray/Hearts get broken every day/Your dying lover’s here and gone.” Demolished Thoughts is an excellent album in its own right, but it’s also a good place-setter for the next Sonic Youth album.
My Morning Jacket
The title says it all. After the more exploratory efforts on its last two albums, this Louisville, Kentucky-based quintet consolidates its sound and reconnects with its Southern-rock roots on its new release, Circuital. Likewise, a lot of the songs on this disc are about coming full circle. The album’s first track, “Victory Dance,” opens with a haunting keyboard sound, along with voices and guitars imitating a trumpet fanfare. Singer Jim James wonders in his haunted, bluesy voice, “Should I close my eyes and prophesize/Hoping maybe someday comes?/Should I wet the ground with my own tears/Crying over what’s been done?” The song gains momentum as the musicians guitarist Carl Broemel, bassist Tom Blankenship, keyboardist Bo Koster and drummer Patrick Hallahan build up steadily toward a frenzied hard ending. My Morning Jacket displays that mastery of dynamics throughout the rest of Circuital. In the country-rock-flavored title track, James sings about “Spinning out gracefully/Going nowhere I could believe/I am older day to day/Still going back to my childhood ways/Circuital, round and round patiently/Getting lost by the guide.” The acoustic guitars build up in layers, and the electric guitars and piano come in as he sings, “Well, any way you cut it/We’re just spinning ‘round/Out on the circuit/Over the hallowed ground/Ending up in the same place/That we started out.” The band ends this track with a good, meaty guitar solo. In the sharp rock number “First Light,” James sings, “Been looking back/Down through the ages/First I was an ancient/Then I was an infant … Searching for something/Something to carry me over the sunset … Then I found it/Or did it find me?” “Outta My System” is the story of someone who got in trouble along the way of his life, and came full circle out of it: “They told me not to smoke drugs, but I wouldn’t listen/Never thought I’d get caught and wind up in prison/Chalk it up to youth, but young age I ain’t dissin’/I guess I just had to get it outta my system.” The song picks up momentum as the protagonist looks back at where he’s been and what he’s gained: “The lust of youth versus married security/I’m glad I’m here now, but just between you and me/I had to get out and make the deals/And learn to know how it feels, but that it ain’t real.” The group takes a funky approach to “Holdin’ On to Black Metal,” bringing in a stabbing horn section and female backing vocals; James sings in falsetto about the temptation to violence and crime … and it turns out the “black metal” in question is a gun. An album as strong as this one should end with a bang, but it loses its momemtum a bit at the end instead, closing with the the self-descriptive “Slow Slow Tune” and the solemn waltz of “Movin’ Away.” Apart from that, My Morning Jacket does itself proud on Circuital, maturing as a band without losing its toughness. As James sings in the folky ballad “Wonderful (The Way I Feel)”: “It matters to me/Took a long time to get here/But if it would’ve been easy/I would not have cared.”
(My Morning Jacket will perform at Red Rocks on Thursday, August 4. As of this review’s date, tickets still are available.)
The Double Cross
(Yep Roc Records)
Sloan may not be a household name in the States, but it’s one of Canada’s most beloved rock bands. It’s also one of the most stable, democratic groups in the history of pop music. Jay Ferguson, Chris Murphy, Patrick Pentland and Andrew Scott share in the songwriting and singing, and trade instruments back and forth, both in the studio and onstage. This year, the quartet is celebrating twenty years together as a musical unit hence the title The Double Cross (as in XX). On track after track, Sloan delivers pure power-pop pleasure, in the grand tradition of the Raspberries, the Hollies and Big Star. The album gets off to an energetic start with the Motownish beat, understated organ and acoustic guitar drive of “Follow the Leader”: “I need to obey someone/I would never betray that someone/I find every day, someone/Gets in line.” The track changes to an early-Sixties-pop coda, leading into the next number, the Mellotron-enhanced “The Answer Was You” (“Hey, be cool for the interview/I don’t recall the question/But clearly, the answer was you”). The rhythm section kicks things up a notch or two as needed for crisp, snappy numbers like “Unkind,” “Shadow of Love,” “I’ve Gotta Know” and the Cheap Trick-like “It’s Plain to See.” “She’s Slowin’ Down Again” moves on a strong undercurrent of piano, chiming lead guitar and jazz-kissed chord changes that hint at early Steely Dan; “Green Gardens, Cold Montreal” recalls Donovan, with its swoony melody and quivery vocal over nothing but acoustic number and electric piano; “Your Daddy Will Do,” with its mournful melody, lush vocal harmonies, inventive chord changes and violin on the bridge, recalls later-period Beach Boys or prime-period Squeeze. “Beverly Terrace” (“It’s like a show down at Beverly Terrace/Perhaps a movie filmed in 1949/Just outside of Paris/With palm trees shipped direct from Hollywood & Vine”) hints at some long-forgotten New Wave band, with its streamlined rhythm section, keyboard drive (especially on the bridge) and clipped, Cars-like guitar. If this all makes Sloan sound like an ensemble of clever copycats, rest assured: the quartet blends all these influences seamlessly into a sound of their own, and the album flows splendidly from start to finish. The Double Cross is a well-crafted, consistent, instantly appealing album from a group that’s made such appeal, consistency and craft its stock in trade for twenty years. Well done, gentlemen, and happy anniversary. Now then: any chance you’ll finally perform in Colorado, so your fans here can share in the celebration?
Okay, let’s get this out of the way: Any guitarist-drummer duo is going to get compared to the White Stripes. (I’ve made such a comparison in at least one review for KRCC.) Wild Hares, the Colorado Springs-based duo of guitarist/vocalist Tracy Santa and drummer Michael Salkind, does take a similarly raw ‘n’ rugged (and stripped-down, by necessity) approach, but draws its influences more from early rock & roll (particularly the twangy, tremelo-heavy Duane Eddy variety) and country music than the blues sounds that the White Stripes trafficked in. “The Amorous Exploits of Mars Nutian” relates a story about a bereaved lover seeking revenge, similar to the Beatles’ “Rocky Raccoon,” from which it even lifts a rhyme: “He picked up his Bible/In search of his rival.” “Your Smile Is Killing Me” (the song’s only lyric) has a more ominous sound, particularly to the guitars. “Where on Earth?” is a mournful rock & roll ballad about finding “Somewhere/Where I could feel/That my illusions just might be real/Maybe they could stand the light of day/Where on earth can that be?” The loping “A Room as High” is a good old-fashioned country-style pick-up number: “I don’t like to run any more than you do/So if you need to stay here, I don’t mind/It’s just that standing still is so exhausting/It’s as cruel as thinking time is on your side.” “Valentine’s Day,” “Drawing Blanks” and “Two Worlds Collide” are raw, swaggering rock & roll tunes; “Death Valley Days” and “Love Won’t Lie Down” are slow, haunting country-tinged laments. The duo adds some drone to its cover of Alex Chilton’s “I’m in Love with a Girl” and some jazzy energy to its rendition of Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon.” And “Turn Around” shows what the pair can do with a bluesier approach. Santa and Salkind occasionally get a bit slipshod, but never so much that they lose their hold on the groove. Wild Hares is a good debut; hopefully these two will stick together and create even better music in the future. (I like the cover photo, too.)
Contact the reviewer at email@example.com.