CD reviews: Explorers Club, Bowerbirds, Canon Blue and Callaghan
Recently, a ton of CDs by artists I had no familiarity with whatsoever landed on my desk and in my iTunes. I’m not sure why they’re here; I didn’t ask for most of them, far as I can recall. Did the email announcing Unknown Band Month go to my junk mail, and I missed it?So here’s a column of reviews of albums by bands I previously knew nothing about. The regular rules are out the window: I don’t promise to listen to an album all the way through before reviewing it. If I can’t stand it, I’m moving on.This should freshen up my ears. Or make me stop listening to music for awhile.
produced by Jason Brewer, Mark Linett and Matt Goldman (Rock Ridge Music)On their second album, this sextet from South Carolina unabashedly explores the sort of pop-rock you would have heard on early ’70s AM radio on a bright summer morning when the DJ was in an agreeable mood. Which is a good idea when the influences are the sunny harmonies of the Beach Boys, a not-too-bad concept when it’s the earnest Burt Bacharach-like arrangements, and a mood-killer when they haul in the Blood, Sweat & Tears-type horn section. I give them credit for not being shy about showing their influences, and for being passably original while doing so. But career advice, guys? Listen to track number six, “Go For You,” then never do that again.Made it through 13 of 15 tracks, and wouldn’t be entirely opposed to listening to the whole thing again as long as I could skip a track here and there.
produced by Beth Tacular and Phil Moore (Dead Oceans)Another one from the Carolinas – North Carolina, this time – and definitely a band worth knowing. “The Clearing,” the third album by the trio the Bowerbirds, is an accomplished work of freak-folk, spacious, elegant and adventurous, with violins and accordions adding a rural flavor. Some more rhythmic drive and vocal power and they’re approaching Fleet Foxes territory.
produced by Mads Brauer, Casper Clausen and Daniel James (Temporary Residence)Dig it a lot. Canon Blue makes expansive electro-pop that captures elements of folk and orchestral music, shows an inventive grasp of song structure, and retains an overall soulfulness. Not too far from Sufjan Stevens territory.Thing I don’t understand: Why each track is subtitled for a city – e.g.: “Indian Summer (Des Moines)”; “Bows & Arrows (Vegas).” It could be where each track was recorded, though I doubt it; there are 10 different cities mentioned.Thing I really don’t understand: If Canon Blue leader Daniel James lives in Nashville, why do all the other musicians have Scandinavian names ( Claus Hojensgrd, Bjorn Heeboll)?Thought I was going to listen to the whole thing, but instead made a mental note to listen to come back to it. Even had the passing thought that I should burn this to CD.I really appreciate the title. I’ve always liked the concept of the Rumpsringa, the period when Amish teens get to use electricity and have pre-marital sex – basically, take a break from being Amish – while deciding whether they really want to be Amish. Not to mention, what a great sounding word. But somehow I always forget the term, rumspringa. Maybe this will help me remember.
produced by Shawn MullinsGeorgina Callaghan, a 29-year-old singer who goes by Callaghan, is from Boston – Boston, Lincolnshire, that is. (Dead giveaway: how she spells “colour.”) But she doesn’t sound like she’s from Massachusetts or the U.K. “Life in Full Colour,” her debut, has the full Nashville influence – clean, clear pop that, if you listen closely, you can detect hints of country in there somewhere. Callaghan, who has lived in Atlanta the last few years, has a bright, beautiful voice, and her songwriting is solid. “Life in Full Colour” puts her akin to Shawn Colvin’s poppier side. Meaning loads of mainstream hit potential.If I liked country-pop, I’d like this a lot. As it is, I recommend Callaghan for tween girls hooked on Taylor Swift, and looking for the logical next step firstname.lastname@example.org
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