Now playing: New Pixies and other unique sounds
“Indie Cindy” (Pixiesmusic)
The Pixies’ first album since 1991’s “Trompe le Monde” and its first without bassist Kim Deal isn’t as bad as it’s been made out to be.
The album, released in late April, includes all 12 songs from the three new EPs the band independently put out over the last year. Those EPs were mostly shunned by critics and Pixies purists, who’ve claimed that the band has lost its touch, that the Pixies without Deal is sacrilege, that the new music sullies the band’s legacy, among other gripes. “There is no Pixies in these Pixies,” a Pitchfork review of “EP 1” memorably summed it up.
Maybe nothing can match the band’s original output, but listen to “Indie Cindy” on its own terms, and there are some genuine gems in it. The loud-quiet-loud mix of “Indie Cindy,” the sweet balladry and alien storyline of “Greens and Blues,” the whispering menace of “Magdalena” — these are off-kilter rock songs worthy of the Pixies name. They might or might not fit in on early Pixies albums, but they do fit on this one, and they signal that this is a band that’s not looking back trying to recapture old glory but instead trying to evolve.
The band’s influence on rock music since the grunge era can’t be overstated. After the Pixies broke up in the early ’90s, the likes of Nirvana and Radiohead came along and credited the Pixies as their primary influence, bringing the Boston indie pioneers a wider audience after their break-up than they ever had on their original run. The taut songs on their first albums — propelled by guitarist Joey Santiago’s inimitable note-bending sound — can be melancholy, violent and funny all at once, thanks to Black Francis’ bizarre lyrics and schizophrenic delivery.
At the Pixies show here at Belly Up in February, “Greens and Blues” and the anarchic heavy metal of “What Goes Boom” were memorable moments in an unforgettable show that blended new material and classics. The show and the new songs convincingly made the case that the Pixies are not cravenly cashing in on their name with a reunion tour and reunion album. They’re growing, they’re going forward, and hopefully, they’ll keep making new music.
Put your nostalgia for the old Pixies aside, and give their new album a spin.
“Cavalo” (Easy Sound)
On his first solo album, Rodrigo Amarante — of Little Joy and Los Hermanos – still gets a little help from his friends. The Brazilian singer and multi-instrumentalist’s guests on the 11-track “Cavalo” include folk favorite Devandra Banhart, comedian Kristen Wiig and Strokes drummer Fabrizio Moretti.
The result is a pleasing grab bag of indie folk, samba, romantic crooning in Portuguese, and lo-fi rock.
Quiet, acoustic numbers like the opener, “Nada Em Vao,” and “Mon Nom” are among the highlights, showing off Amarante’s ability to combine diverse instrumental elements to build unpredictable sonic textures to back his voice. He drops those indie-folk tricks on a few of the simpler folky songs on the disc, like “Irene,” which leaves them bland by comparison.
Amarante’s solo debut really gets interesting as he jumps between genres with songs like the funky Latin dance samba of “Mana” and the foot-tapping garage rock of “Hourglass.”
“Shade Themes From Kairos” (Drag City)
Guitarist Stephen O’Malley, co-founder of the Seattle experimental band Sunn O))), went into the studio with percussionist Oren Ambarchi and engineer Randall Dunn to score a short film — but they came out of the recording sessions with much more.
The trio’s collaboration ended up expanding beyond the film work and into this eerie five-track instrumental album. “Shade Themes” retains a cinematic quality, bringing to mind horror-flick images of wandering around a dystopian future, with danger awaiting ominously in the shadows and often lurching into the light to shock you.
With hypnotic effect, it builds layers of sludgy guitar drones, scratching feedback and atmospheric synths with cycles of thumping drumbeats coming in and out.
The album breaks out of atmospheric lulls into shocking stretches of panicked guitar distortion on tracks like “Temporal, Eponymous” and chillingly builds tension with a Hitchcockian expertise on the slow-building “Ebony Pagoda.”
At first this struck me as the kind of instrumental record to play when I’m reading or writing or I otherwise don’t want to be distracted by lyrics. Yet the more I put it on, the more I found myself looking up from the page, listening closely, trying to decipher the rich layers of its soundscapes.
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