Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hit-Bound Sounds

Just finished a round of new-music auditioning. Dropped the needle on about sixty releases, culled from around 400 reviews and recommendations. How do reviewers do it? Keep it fresh, I mean. How do they express enthusiasm over and over again, while drawing from the usual genre-and-influences well? I'd go mad if I tried to do that.

While I don't always share their enthusiasm for given acts, my appreciation for their work runs wide and deep. So, as a form of homage, here are the ten releases from this go-round that will make it into regular rotation for awhile around here, along with excerpts from the reviews that inspired me to take the music out for a test drive.

Caveats: These are not all hot off the presses; in fact, a couple aren't even the given artist's latest release. Also, I'm not here to say this is music for the ages; I might not still have 'em in my library by this time next year. The unifying factor is that they all caught my ear and made me want to know more.

(Note: the links will take you to sites that permit streaming of some or all of the music in the reviewed album.)

Hush Arbors -- Yankee Reality

Kevin 'Hush Arbors' Wood has impressive avant-folk credentials. His second full-length for Thurston Moore's Ecstatic Peace label, however, finds Wood blending his experimentation with classic songcraft, delivering an album clearly in love with that moment when rock, folk, and country began to cross-pollenate. -- Steve Chick, Mojo

A.A. Bondy -- When the Devil's Loose

Its lush instrumentation and Southern Gothic lyrics give it a melancholic mood, one that Bondy handles beautifully. Draw a line between Bon Iver and the more reflective side of Ryan Adams and that's where you'll find Bondy. -- Paul Rees, Q

Northern Valentine -- The Distance Brings Us Closer

Here's five long, ambient, metallic drone soundscapes by a Philadelphia husband 'n wife duo. Admirers of Seefeel, Silo, Roedelius, and Brian Eno's ambient work will find this a ripping spin. -- Mark Suppanz, The Big Takeover

Brett Anderson -- Slow Attack

This being [former Suede frontman] Brett, chilly conditions prevail, though the music's overt dreaminess provides warmth. As the title warns, 'Slow Attack' takes time to bed-in, but it's a valiantly single-minded and frequently gorgeous record. -- Martin Aston, Mojo

Floorian -- More Fiend

This Columbus, OH outfit plays ominous, trance-inducing space-rock, with hints of metal, psychedelic, and Eastern influences. Like the soundtrack to a nail-biting, suspenseful horror flick, the LP's dark, creepy ambience makes for an ideal late-night listening experience. -- Mark Suppanz, The Big Takeover

Veronica sez: The player on this site is a bit funky...you might find it worthwhile to jump ahead to the second track.

Tim Easton -- Porcupine

Midwesterner Easton's aim to put some grit back into his music has been achieved in spades. The gristly blues of 'Burgundy Red' and 'Stormy' belt along, while 'Stone's Throw Away''s front porch strum reeks of last night's whiskey. -- Andy Fife, Q

The Dodge Brothers -- Louisa and the Devil

Can a middle-class English film critic play the upright bass in a rockabilly band? Why not? The Dodge Brothers trade in pastiche, but it's energetic and witty pastiche. -- Andrew Mueller, Uncut

Veronica sez: Start with 'You Can't Walk Like a Man' to get the idea.

The Ettes -- Look at Life Again Soon

Take a cup of Nuggets, add two tablespoons of early 60s Rolling Stones, a teaspoon of Shangri-Las, a pinch of Wanda Jackson and a dash of Nancy Sinatra, and you've got the batter for the Ettes. The band massages the garage rock framework with sensual hands. -- Michael Toland, The Big Takeover

Veronica sez: The Ettes have since released another album and an EP.

Nosound -- Lightdark

This Italian ensemble hangs mostly percussionless ambient soundscapes on a jazzy prog/pop backbone. Melodies unfold over subdued arrangements for a late-night tone that commands attention. A soothing, occasionally sublime hour of lush tuneage. -- Michael Toland, The Big Takeover

Veronica sez: On this MySpace player, the track 'Places Remained' is from this album. Nosound has a brand-new album as well, released last month.

This is another in a large number of Steven Wilson-related releases I have stumbled upon this year. Elsewhere in the band's linked MySpace player is a piece called 'Together We're Stranger,' the title track from an album by No-Man, which was formed by Wilson and Tim Bowness. The latter sings on this edition of it as well.

Bomshel -- Fight Like a Girl

Midlife arrives without crisis on the country duo Bomshel’s charming first album. “I lose my keys, and I’m constantly late/I’m comfortable a couple of pounds overweight,” Kelley Shepard sings on “Love Me for Me,” one of several songs that preach inner comfort while the outside world looks on skeptically. -- Jon Caramanica, The New York Times

Veronica sez: This might appeal to the Miranda Lambert crowd as well.