Bonus post: A handful of 50-word CD reviews
All reviews based entirely on first impressions, and not to be construed as particularly informed:
Brasstronaut – Mt. Chimera (Unfamiliar):
A hell of an improvement from the Old World Lies EP, which was alright but not noteworthy. Elements of jazz, laid-back electronica, dixieland and indie rock, but all in an unabashedly pop framework. Think P:Ano if they’d been less dour, or Bell Orchestre if they just wanted you to dance.
The Pinecones – Sage (Just Friends):
Formerly Brent Randall and his Pinecones, the simplified name comes with a simplified sound: straight-up psych-pop revivalism with a particular fondness for the Kinks. It doesn’t quite reach those heights, but Randall hasn’t lost his affinity for hooks and accessible melodies. Call them the Village Green Preservation Society preservation society.
Tindersticks – Falling Down a Mountain (Constellation):
Losing half its original members hasn’t hurt Tindersticks any –Stuart Staples’ baritone is all the band needs to enchant. The opening title track mines a hypnotic 15/4 groove until almost the breaking point, while “Peanuts” provides a ridiculous, tongue-in-cheek ballad; just two sublime moments on an album full of them.
Gigi – Maintenat (Tomlab)
Nick Krgovich (P:Ano, No Kids) aims to recapture the warm, inviting songcraft of Phil Specter-era pop and succeeds admirably. Guest vocalists from Owen Pallett to Karl Blau and Mirah sound perfectly at ease in songs that demand to invade the AM waveband. Nostalgia rarely sounds this good, or this affectless.
Malachai – Ugly Side of Love (Domino)
If the shrill, reggae-influenced, Warriors-sampling opening track doesn’t scare you off, Malachai offers plenty of rewards. The sample-heavy album is loaded with lyrical and musical nods to classic rock vets from The Guess Who to Yes, but the loose, cobbled-together feel is the key. Maybe skip the first track, though.