Lady Lamb, aka Aly Spaltro, might not be keeping bees any more but that hasn’t stopped her from putting out an absolutely stunning sophomore effort. Two years ago I became infatuated with her music from her debut, Ripely Pine. That infatuation was reinforced by a ripping show at Schubas.
On my review of Ripley Pine, I commented that Spaltro reminded me of Will Sheff of Okkervil River. Her voice can be as fragile as a china doll one verse and can bristle with rage on the next. Her tunes are not what you would call formulaic or straight-forward and that complex nature fits her voice like a glove.
The third track, Violet Clementine, opens up with Spaltro singing a capella before a banjo kicks in. The song bounces along as a tasty little folk track. Then a bass line drops and you know you’re going for a ride. So much shit is going on. Left is right. Right is left. But somehow it sounds like it all belongs. That encompasses the brilliance that is Lady Lamb. You never know what the fuck is coming next? Sounds and transitions you would never imagine pushing up next to each other are the norm. The envelope isn’t so much as pushed; as it is ripped open like a piñata.
Spaltro’s last line on the album is “I know where I come from.” The fun part will be seeing where she goes because right now the possibilities are endless.
With the release of their s/t debut in 2012, I figured Diamond Rugs was just a pleasant one-time project. With Deer Tick kicking into full gear and T. Hardy Morris embarking on a solo career in addition to his work with Dead Confederate, I didn’t see how they would make it happen again. And that’s not even mentioning the schedules of Ian St. Pe, Steve Berlin and Bryan Dufresne. So imagine my delight when they announced their follow up with Cosmetics.
The beauty of Diamond Rugs is that you know what you’re in for: a 40 minute tour de force of barroom rock n roll with big chords and a fat horn section. And while their main acts all fall in the rock n roll vein, they all have their own intricacies and blending those could have proved to be a hot mess. But instead of trying to puree them into a soup, Diamond Rugs turned them into Paella where you could still taste the individual flavors. That’s why their debut is still in constant rotation, and why Cosmetics will stay there as well.
On the heels of his excellent solo album, Morris has some really strong tracks in Thunk with Berlin’s meaty baritone sax buoying Morris’ weary voice. So What is a love song that bristles with a bratty defiance, thundering along with bravado thanks to the great bass line of Ian Crowell as Morris croons his love.
There are a couple of great tracks where St. Pe and McCauley’s vocals play off each other to maximum affect. They have a great ability to harmonize such as Couldn’t Help It but I really like when they trade the verses back and forth like Live and Shout It as McCauley casually offers St. Pe the response of “You Just Talk About It.” Its the kind of song that feels like it was made up on the spot and will easily be a concert favorite.
St. Pe says it best, “Cosmetics are products you put on your body to make you feel good,” St. Pé says. “Our music is the same. If you wanna be smart, read a book. If you wanna have a good time, come see the Diamond Rugs.”
Christoffer Gunrup, the band’s singer, songwriter and guitarist, had this to say about his new band The Amazing – “I have no idea how to describe the songs [on any of my records]. I like and hate them all equally. If you theorize about the songs, it ruins the tension and passion. Just shut the fuck up and play, but play good.” Well that makes two of us. I’ve been listening to this for a couple of months now and struggled for description, coming up with new different ways all the time. Last thing I said, was a “more psychedelic version of Midlake.” But Gunrup would have issue with that, “I hate the word (psychedelic),” he says. “I have no relation to psychedelic music or prog rock.”
OK, fair enough. Let’s start over. The Amazing are a five piece outfit from Sweden. A few of them played in Dungen. They all are ripping good musicians. They just got signed to one of my favorite labels, Partisan Records. Their PR guru, Shira, name-dropped Red House Painters and Tame Impala in her email. So where does that leave us now? Fuck if I know.
I know I really like the album. Its easy to get lost in the swirling rhythms. I love that some of the tracks, including the lead single – Picture You, will stretch out over 7 minutes; changing direction, tempo; etc at the drop of a hat. I know while they might bring some things to mind when you listen to them; they are something to behold all on their own without getting all caught up in comparisons.
So, you’ve read this review and what did it do it for you? Well, hopefully enough to check out the track below. I might not be able to give you a blow by blow of the album but I can tell you this – it is tasty. I listened to it one day when I was skiing in Vail and it was an out-of-this-world experience.
Here at HearYa, we enjoyed Whitehorse’s last effort, The Fate Of The World Depends On This Kiss, just fine. A couple guys from the HearYa crew caught them at SXSW ’13 and said they put on a real good show. But while good, the album seemed to lack a certain punch to it to make it great. For a crappy musician like me, it was tough to put a finger on it. But the married couple of Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet, who solely comprise Whitehorse stumbled into meeting producer Gus Van Go at the 2013 Polaris Music Gala. Doucet was smitten with Van Go’s work; specifically his work with complex rhythms. Van Go pushed the duo; making them rewrite songs over and over and fleshing out their sound.
And I’m happy to say, that Leave No Bridge Unburned is fantastic. It is a textbook example of how a producer can take an artist to the next level. It isn’t done by radically recreating them. Like any good sports coach, it is done by pushing them and introducing ideas to something that is already damn good to begin with.
“This record has vastly different bones than our previous ones,” Doucet said. “They are stronger and more deliberate.” Yep, couldn’t say it any better. They fire out of the speakers and deliver that punch that makes the tunes stick in your gut. For those not familiar with the band, I would describe them as Americana Noir. Their opening track, Baby What’s Wrong has some old-school Calexico flavor to it with its Spaghetti Western guitar lick. The call and response between McClelland and Doucet for the chorus is outstanding; McClelland oozing a sexuality with her voice that feels natural and understated.
Whitehorse is out on tour now and are going to be down at SXSW. I missed them last time but don’t plan on making that mistake again.
photo by Ryan Farber Too much is being made of how old these guys are. Hell, I’ve been guilty of it as well. But the truth is, A Flourish And A Spoil would be a great album whether these guys were 20 or 50. After bursting on to the scene with this video of Funeral [...]
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Elijah Ocean is an Americana artist out of the LA area. His latest release, Bring It All In, is an absolute stunner of an album. Combining elements of Joe Pug, Hiss Golden Messenger and Whiskeytown makes it such a delight to listen to. The album was recorded over the course of a weekend with Ocean’s [...]