December 03, 2014

The Barr Brothers - Sleeping Operator

The Barr Brothers
Sleeping Operator
Secret City Records

There's something intrinsically delicate and considered about Sleeping Operator
an album, that once you're invited in, is riddled with surprise, panache and a musical persuasion that's all too much to resist.

Indeed, from the ethereal opening instrumental of the rather clumsily entitled 'Static Orphans,' which then segues into (what perhaps ought to have been the opener) 'Love Ain't Enough,' one's immediately aware that The Barr Brothers are a band of abundant, yet acute, intelligent dexterity.

Having initially been formed in Boston by Andrew and Brad Barr, the band now reside in Montreal; and going by these here thirteen tracks, fall somewhere betwixt the fine finesse of The Fleet Foxes ('Wolves,' 'Little Lover' and the rather lovely 'Please Let Me Let It Go'), the much sought after, quintessential lightness of touch care of Neil Young ('Come In Water,' 'How The Heroine Dies') as well as the deft, seemingly swamp drenched guitarchitecture of Ry Cooder ('Half Crazy').

So all told, a cracking album in more ways that one.

The prime reason for this is because Sleeping Operator consists of an altogether, in vogue, varied selection songs; more than capable of tugging at a menagerie of mood-swings and the all too flippant generation that throws a hero up the pop chart.

David Marx 

July 17, 2014

Arcelia - Wrap Your Bones

Wrap Your Bones

When the word Arcelia is translated from Spanish into English, it means treasure chest; although the band of the same name's debut album Wrap Your Bones is perhaps best described as a quasi-modernist, acoustic collection of thirteen love songs – all of which eventually worm their way into the sub-conscious filing cabinets of your mind.

While the lush and ethereal acoustic guitar(s) of prime writer Gavin Alexander does its utmost to procure the listener, it is nevertheless the combination of all three members - Teresa Gallagher on vocals/percussion and continuing Flying Picket (forgive them Lord for they know not...) Simon Foster on vocals/cajon - that truly bequeaths those with an ear, as well as a penchant for subtlety, with the full picture.

Whether it's the folk induced, Prefab Sproutesque melody of 'Cupid' (not to be confused with Sam Cooke's song of the same name) or the suave, shimmering soul of 'Blossom;' created herein is a musical journey that's as much worth investigating as it is dripping with potential.

David Marx  

July 09, 2014

The Cambodia Space Project - Whiskey Cambodia

Whiskey Cambodia
The Cambodian Space Project
Metal Postcard Records

Whisky Cambodia, the third album by top Khmer beat-combo, The Cambodian Space Project, really is a rather fab and at times, intoxicating album. Its ten tracks instinctively fall somewhere betwixt the heady rush of what initially made Detroit great to begin with, and a musical trajectory of a certain sweltering, sixties induced, Cambodian twist-a-thon.

Think I'm kidding? Think again, for as as recently quoted in The Guardian, this lot are: ''a rousing, quirky reminder of the pre-Khmer Rouge golden era of Cambodian pop.''

Not that I'm a connoisseur of said era, but I do know a quintessentially ice-cool groove when I hear one. And if this album's opener 'Dance Twist' isn't of the sweatiest, quasi Northern Soul persuasion - one of the finest I've heard in a very time long in fact - then I really don't know what is.

Worth hearing just for the very incisive Booker T'esque guitar alone...

David Marxx

March 24, 2014

Faye Rogers - Thunder

Faye Rogers
Secret Chord Records

To call 'fate a fraud,' understandably takes some doing - especially when those doing the calling would no doubt want to be believed.  But when the erstwhile is delivered by way of such idiosyncratic, musical innocence that simply saturates this four-track EP, one indelibly knows one's on to a potentially good thing.

To be sure, this debut release by Swindon songstress, Faye Rogers, comes replete with more perspicacious promise than most.  'Beautiful Lies' for instance - wherein Rogers does indeed suggest that ''fate'' is nothing other than ''a fraud'' - hangs on the musically canonesque coat-tails of a keyboard line, that, although a tad too linear for it's own good, still manages to (somehow) home in on the listener. 

And like most of the material throughout Thunder, it's as if one is inadvertently overhearing a conversation in a crowded bus or tube train; wherein what's actually being said is as silently pronounced as a troubled after thought. As such, there's something coquettishly touching to be gleaned. 

Whether it's such weighted turns of phrase as ''All the fantasies I pinned on you'' ('Thunder'), or ''I want to own the blueprint of your soul'' ('Gathering Dust'), or the simple, delicate dexterity of her delivery; Faye Rogers most definitely warrants keeping an eye on. 

Even if only to hear her (one day) write songs, that clock in at under three minutes.

David Marx  

March 09, 2014

Jim Reynolds - Dream On

Dream On
Jim Reynolds
Runner Records

Comfortably nestled somewhere betwixt the (former) foregone conclusion of yer blues incorporated era Eric Clapton meets Andy Fairweatherlow were he to have dabbled in ragtime, Jim Reynolds is an exceedingly well versed bluesmith from Bristol. 
By way of his ten fingers, he has a particular penchant for musically transporting the listener unto another place, which, although perhaps a little too derivative for its own good, most certainly makes for a mighty resfreshing change from that of the current tsunami of all too considered teenage angst.  That horribly wishy-washy genre of pained fourteen year-olds with acoustic guitars, who, by way of limp-wristed, acute irritating bollocks - for that is what it invaraibly is - profess to be in more pain than a menagerie of grief stricken, Syrian mothers. 
Alas, forgive them Lord, for they not what they inexorably whine about.

So yeah, eventhough this fifteen track CD Dream On was released a number of years ago, it still shines on like a long lost diamond that's suddenly been found. 
To be sure, there's a deeply entrenched honesty about the whole affair, which, apart from being highly commendable, is a commodity that is sorely missing amid so much of today's saccharine induced, sordid wank.  This is partially substantiated by the fact that five of the tracks were recorded live at the Albert Inn in Bristol, while the remainder were recorded in the studio.  
In and of itself, I found this to be a rather daring, musical undertaking, even if only from that of the perspective of production.  Although to be honest, the songs are just as sonically reflective as they are complimentary with regards subject matter.  That eleven of them were written by Reynolds, makes for a refreshing change, especially given the current potential for tired stasis within the parameters of blues (as a whole).  And even if three of the album's stand-out tracks weren't written by him (Nick Drake's 'Northern Sky,' Jimmie Rodgers '99 Blues' and Chuck Berry's '30 Days'), most of the songs throughout are of an inspired, joyous persuasion.
'Feelin' Too Good Today Blues' and 'Thinking About You' are particulary strong originals; the former of which is nicely aided and abetted by way of Dave Griffiths' mandolin and Gina Griffin's violin (towards the end), while the latter leaps forth by way of a resoundingly provocative/melodic departure.  The musicality of which, I personally believe Dream On  could have done a whole lot more with. 
That said, Jim Reynolds has herein delivered a fine and rather wonderful album that warrants a cascade of listens and a tumultuous round of recognition.

David Marx

January 12, 2014

The Automaniacs - Open All Night

Open All Night
The Automaniacs

Other than the fact that I'd be mighty curious to hear what some of these musical pieces might actually sound like with vocals, the seven original tracks on this debut album by The Automaniacs, really is a feisty and somewhat invigorating musical challenge of the first degree.

I say feisty, because Open All Night appears to have disposed of most recognised parameters within the prog-rock genre - which I guess it essentially is - by way of chief Automaniac, Shaun Barry, having taken it upon himself to occasionally let rip whilst simultaneously pushing the all too staid boundaries.  

Hence the final result being both idiosyncratic and invigorating.

To be sure, Messrs. Barry (guitars, bass, keyboards and voices) and drummer Jef Browning, have herein assembled a menagerie of musical moods, soundscapes and guitarchitecture that not only kneels at the alter of ye fantabulous Pink Floyd circa Relics - opening and closing tracks 'Ocean/Daddy, It Feels Like There's Stones In My Gums' and 'John Slips Inside Jill, But It's Not Her He's Thinking Of' in particular - but also nods a surprisingly winsome wink towards a number of other seventies space meisters.

To be sure, The Automaniancs vision is a considered analysis of a pop induced sensibility drenched in former Gong and Hawkwind day-trips.  That's not to say these day-trippers only work and record within the elongated trajectory of the seventies, as the Radioheadesque 'Heart In Hand, Head In The Clouds' wholly substantiates. 

As for fans of Hank Marvin (that's right folks, you read correctly), a Shadows toon cum riff rears its all too renowned head around the 7:15 mark of 'Teapot Dream;' but this ought hardly be surprising considering the altogether, exceedingly clean Strat sound throughout the album as a whole. 

And in and of itself, this will undoubtedly inspire all disciples of Marvin and Gilmore as in Hank and Dave - thus accounting for Open All Night simply oozing with resolute panache and potential.

David Marx

October 24, 2013

RoseAnn Fino

RoseAnn Fino
RoseAnn Fino
 Woodstock Records

If nothing else, this debut album by RoseAnn Fino, simply sparkles with elongated, musical promise and potential. Each of its twelve tracks (the twelfth, 'Sink Your World,' being a bonus track) has that certain something, that can only be described as quintessentially alluring.

To be sure, the American songstress - from New York's Hudson Valley - has honed her craft to such an idiosyncratically attractive degree, as to be augmented by Professor Louie & The Crowmatix and occasional Van Morrison guitarist, John Platania. This can only be described as a good thing, especially on such a lush and ethereal number as the opener 'Change My Mind,' and the more than musically expectant 'Seventies Trousers' (cool title). I say musically expectant due to the song's inviting, descending chord structure.

Replete with an album cover that really does tick all the boxes; the essential one being that you're immediately drawn to it - so well done Messrs. Spinosa, Rosenbaum and Greer - some of the songs fall within the tell it as it is parameters of such soul-drenched country artists as Iris Dement and Lucinda Williams. Reason being, snatches of Fino's phrasing on 'You and I' is reminiscent of the former, while the subject matter of 'My Good Friends' evokes that of a younger version of the latter.

While Producer, Aaron L. Hurwitz, really has done an intrinsically commendable job, I'd personally recommend that many, if not most of the songs, would greatly benefit from being a lot shorter. This may partially explain why 'Little Girl Lost' and 'My Good Friends' (at 1:51 and 3:30 respectively) are the two strongest songs on the album. As a result of these two being more succinct, they're more believable.

Other than the length of the material, I also feel inclined to say that RoseAnn Fino is, at this stage at least, a better writer than she is a singer. BUT, this will probably change; especially if she continues to sit ''in the kitchen drinking boxed wine,'' and continues to listen to ''Bob Dylan singing 'I shall be free''' ('Boxed Wine').

David Marx