Still Life is the second solo album from Kevin Morby, formerly the bassist of Woods and guitarist for The Babies, who are currently on hiatus. Listening to the album opener, “The Jester, The Tramp & the Acrobat,” Morby immediately reminds me of Cass McCombs in vocal style and composition. (Also see Track 6 Re: Cass McCombs sound) Both guys are storytellers lyrically, in the tradition of Bob Dylan, right down to the dropped off vocal drawl.
A good portion of this record sounds more fleshed out (and the work of a full live band) than Morby’s debut. (great use of bass, drums and organs)
Track 3 “Motors Runnin” has a jangly (Feelies-like) guitar upfront and later gives way to a (Galaxie 500) style guitar solo.
Track 7 “Parade” has a timeless/classic sound about it. Opening with a clean electric guitar tone, drums and adding a tinkling piano and saxophone, this is probably the album highlight. “Parade” also adds some double-layered lead vocals and female backing vocal (bah bah bahs) for good measure. Lyrically it’s a bit new-agey, revolving around the line “If I were to die today…”
RIYL: Cass McCombs, Bob Dylan, Kurt Vile, Jim James
Hoodwink’d is the sophomore album from New York’s LVL UP. There are 3 songwriters and seemingly as many lead vocalists (along with female backing vocals) mixed throughout the record.
Hoodwink’d is a slacker record through and through, calling to mind vintage Pavement, GBV, Superchunk and Weezer, as well as retro-leaning peers like Yuck, Parquet Courts, PAWS and Speedy Ortiz.
Track 2, “Stoned Alone” is a peppy shuffle of a tune with a giddy wordless chorus and vocals reminiscent of Martin Courtney of Real Estate. There a several songs that share the breezy Real Estate guitar ethos as well as vocal similarity on Hoodwink’d. (Also see tracks 6 & 14)
Track 4, “Hex” is a dead ringer for Slanted + Enchanted-era Pavement and the fuzzy guitar fueled “DBTS” (Track 7) rings of Weezer and GBV.
Piling on the retro reverence, Track 9 restates Silver Jews lyrics “I feel insane when you get in my bed” and discusses what one thinks about when listening to the Silver Jews. This is LVL UP’s anthem, with the repeated line “I keep trying to lose.”
Rips is the debut full-length from Washington D.C. based trio Ex Hex. The group is fronted by Mary Timony, most recently of Wild Flag and previously of the band Helium. Rips is also a good adjective to describe the sound because Ex Hex is a riffing power-pop force.
3 of the cuts here were released earlier this year on a 7” (Tracks 6, 7 & 11 on Rips), HOWEVER the versions on Rips are new/different recordings.
Album opener and first single “Don’t Wanna Lose” is a gritty kiss-off displaying pop sensibilities while also making room for guitar soloing all within 2 ½ minutes. I particularly enjoy the tambourine employed early on in the track.
Track 3 “Waste Your Time” has a sing-songy guitar line and the bass is definitely moved up front in the mix.
One of the heavier numbers is “New Kid” (track 9) and like much of the album is a riff-fest married to the angsty refrain “You’re a warrior, a warrior, a warrior.”
Album closer “Outro” is the closest thing to a slow burn song here and is sort of a forgettable toss-off.
Too Bright is the third full length from Seattle-based solo artist Perfume Genius (aka Mike Hadreas). RIYL: The Antlers
Hadreas’ first two records were mostly spare, piano-dominated (more bedroomy) productions. This record finds Hadreas using the studio as an instrument and stretching both his voice and ambition without abandoning his signature sound. Too Bright was recorded with Adrian Utley of Portishead and features John Parish on several tracks.
Album opener “I Decline,” as well as tracks 4, 6 & 10, are stark/spare affairs highlighting Hadreas’ traditional stock in trade: piano, his voice and atmospherics.
Track 2 “Queen” however offers a left turn. Electric guitar, live drums and bass guitar are employed, but it’s the tinkling synth part draped over the chorus and its memorable phrase “No family is safe when I sashay” that hold the song together.
Track 3, “Fool,” complete with its finger snaps and “oohs” (along with the fuller band sound) make for a sonically rich soulful tune.
I personally find the more experimental songs here to be missteps (see tracks 5, 7 & 9), but admire the moxie behind them. These songs actually call to mind the group Suicide at times.
Ritual In Repeat is the third full-length from Denver-based husband and wife duo Tennis. The record was produced by a trio of A-list musicians: Patrick Carney (The Black Keys), Jim Eno (Spoon) and Richard Swift (the Shins).
The band continues to grow with each release and with this record Alaina Moore’s voice sounds more assured than ever, as evidenced by her vocal turn on album highlight “Bad Girls” (track 5). RIYL (a more pop) Hospitality or maybe HAIM.
On track 4, “I’m Callin’” the breathy Alaina Moore sounds like she’s fronting Phoenix (the French band) complete with disco groove bass, snaking guitar notes and electronic flourishes.
Much like their previous album (2012’s Young & Old), Tennis can do a superb version of the classic ‘60s girl-group sound, like on the multidimensional “Timothy” (track 6).
The rhythm section on track 10, “Solar On The Rise,” immediately calls to mind Peter Bjorn & John’s mega-hit “Young Folks,” down to the egg shaker percussion and bassline.