Monday, May 18, 2015

Talk in Tongues' Debut Nice, But Let's Be "Friends"

Talk in Tongues - Alone with a Friend
Fairfax Recordings
-out tomorrow
3 / 5

We're going to have to admit something: we're a bit stumped when it comes to reviewing the L.A. quartet's debut LP. Alone with a Friend is one of those psych-rock albums that is put together well, that is overall pretty good, that definitely has some singles in it, that...

Still merits only 3 stars from us. Here's why.

We've had this album on our listening shelf for almost a month. Ultimately, we spun it up only about four or five times in that length of time, and we're still feeling a bit on the fence about it. Why? Sure, there are great tracks like "While Everyone Was Waiting," which has an experienced, funktastical bassline; or the slick, smooth "Call For No One Else." These two are clear winners, and while the rest of the ten tracks aren't weak or anything, they kind of slip out of our musical mind. This album is the kind of album that we feel lasts a week, lasts really well, but doesn't have that particular hook (imagine a good ole carp caught, now) that keeps dragging us back. Some of the albums of the last year and a half - Lake Street Dive, Hozier - have, and we think this may be it, that kind of personality to them, that kind of recognition that comes up and makes us want to replay them. Without that here, Alone with a Friend feels something like a ghost in our music collection, unfortunately.

A polished, strong debut, but lacking in uniqueness. Take a pass, but keep your eyes peeled on their next one.

Check out those two singles on Soundcloud, though.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

No Pretending on Ivan and Alyosha's Sophomore

Ivan and Alyosha - It's All Just Pretend
Dualtone Records
-out now
3.5 / 5

Five-some Seattle-ites Ivan and Alyosha come with a strong sophomore album centered on singable melodies, earnestness, and rockin' simplicity. It's All Just Pretend is easy to get into, straightforward, and perhaps not as deep as we'd truly like. But what's here is pleasant and good, filling, and satisfying.

Our favorites come at opposite ends of the spectrum. First, "Modern Man." It's a 70s rocker laden with a bit of reverb, the kind of guitar hook way from left field out of an acoustic ensemble. It's gritty and good. The closer, "Don't Lose Your Love," is more where we imagine Ivan and Alyosha, acoustic and sweet, sincere and ambling. It's a quiet little solo from frontman Tim Wilson. Our complaints come in the form of two goofy tracks - "Let Me Go East," with a traditional bluesy rock strain, and "Oh This Love," upbeat and maybe a little over-accented with horns. They're not especially bad tracks, but don't quite blend in on this collection of eleven. (Neither does "Modern Man," but we can't complain there.) The whole of the album is a bit uneven, but still worth the time.

We're still digging those first two EPs, Fathers Be Kind and The Cabin Sessions, which we still feel are this group's apex. For now. Still, enjoy It's All Just Pretend until they come out with their next.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Newport Folk Fest Fifteen: Friday Picks

It's the time. The time of that season.
Whether you're a fan of the local music scene (see Deer Tick below)
McCauley, just a-rockin' (NFF 2012)
or a fan of Louisville, KY:

The art of Zen. Via Jim James (Also NFF 2012)
You're gonna want to beg, borrow, and steal your tickets to the Newport Folk Festival. Only Friday tics are up on the site, so hopefully you have a REALLY REALLY GOOD FRIEND to help you out with Saturday and Sunday. Here are our pics (so far) for the three-day music extravaganza.

Friday: Iron and Wine and Ben Bridwell
Having appeared on Calexico's latest album together, Sam Beam + the Band of Horses frontman is, from what little we've seen (erm, heard), a lovely, lovely match. Beam's voice is calm, full, confident and just... ahhh, just what you'll need on a hot July day.
-Recommended listening: The Creek Drank the Cradle (Iron and Wine)

Just check out that latest review. They're muy caliente, these gents, and have been giving their Tex-Mex flavor for nigh twenty years. The fact that they're still giving it good is remarkable in music terms, though we anticipate the crowd to be in-the-know on their music. They're complex songwriters, tougher to get than the silky Iron and Wine, but well worth the time.
-Recommended listening: Feast of Wire, Garden Ruin

Joe Pug
We're not sure what kind of crowd Mr. Pug might get this second NFF showing, but his latest Windfall has been getting good reviews, despite our own negativo. The fact of the matter is this: the Dylanesque singer/songwriter knows how to craft a story, set it to intricate guitar-work, and make you grow in the process. Yeah, we'll definitely be there.
(Maybe he'll resign our tee shirt!)
Recommended listening: Nation of Heat (EP), The Great Despiser

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Weekend Update: Slight Blockage on My Morning Jacket's Waterfall

My Morning Jacket - The Waterfall
ATO Records
-out tomorrow
3.5 / 5

It's an improvement, is what we're going to say. Disappointed with 2011's Circuital, which was an album-long slow build (into what?) The Waterfall feels something like a concept, using natural imagery (Spring, the tropics, ...and of course a waterfall) that we can't quite piece together. The title track immediately reminds us of CCR, and that band's repeated use of rain: "Have You Ever Seen the Rain," et al. But while Creedence very ably used (and re-used) water in terms of political change, "In Its Infancy (The Waterfall)" seems to be a strange conglomeration of some sort internal blockage, deadness, lack of movement, all of which a waterfall is of course well-known for. MMJ's metaphor of the waterfall is clearly negative, and... well, we just don't quite get it.

Sonically, The Waterfall is quality MMJ. Our favorite rocker out of this one is clearly "Big Decisions," which is so polished and so kick-arse that we just have to love it. Again, lyrically, it's not perfect: it starts talking about a lover who's not ready to commit, apparently, and won't make that "big decision." The weak link comes in the lyrics when the narrator offers to make that decision "If you really mean it"... wha? Does it work like that? Other good-sounding songs, like "Thin Line," make similar non-sense ("It's a thin line between/ Loving and wasting my time"; is it really?), which is painful to say, but compared to 2008's complex and brilliant Evil Urges, The Waterfall delivers half of what we were expecting here.

A great band with an above-par album. Recommended, yes, but needs a bit more polish in those blasted lyrics!

Stream them on Soundcloud.