Rising ‘Tide’: Latest disc from Gomez is best yet
July 9, 2009
I like everything about Gomez. The British rock band features the same five guys who first emerged from Southport over a decade ago. There are three lead singers, all good, each with a distinctive voice. They write the songs together (or at least they credit the songs as such, another positive attribute). They are prolific; “A New Tide” is their sixth studio album, to go with a live recording and a compilation of worthwhile odds and ends.
Gomez consistently sticks to their roots, while growing their sound organically. “A New Tide” does not, on the whole, sound like the gruff, modern blues-rock of the early albums “Bring It On” and “Liquid Skin.” They have, over the years, added flourishes of folk and psychedelia; here they stretch more than ever, using strings, horns, keyboards and percussion. They always sound experimental, as if they have not set their music – especially the song structures – in stone.
Perhaps the best thing: With each new release, I find myself saying, “Man, this is the best Gomez yet.” That goes for “A New Tide.”
Unlike Gomez, Larry Klein could be said to have found a formula and stuck with it. First recognized as the producer for Joni Mitchell (he is also Mitchell’s ex-husband), Klein has returned again and again to female singers of a certain stripe: jazzy, but not hardcore jazz; always pop or country or folk thrown in. Sophisticated. Singers who write and play instruments as well. He has put Madeleine Peyroux and Luciana Souza on the map, made my favorite Shawn Colvin album (1992’s “Fat City”), and also has on his resume albums by Tracy Chapman, Vienna Teng and Holly Cole. He has also worked with male artists – including Herbie Hancock, on the pianist’s “River: The Joni Letters,” a tribute to Mitchell.
But if Klein’s oeuvre is somewhat narrow, it is also deep and rich. He is good at this chick singer thing. His latest project is Melody Gardot, a 24-year-old from southern New Jersey who earned attention for her 2006 album “Worrisome Heart” (which was not produced by Klein). Gardot exists on a similar plane as Peyroux, making hushed, spare music rooted in jazz that keeps the voice front and center. Unlike Peyroux, Gardot’s style isn’t tinged with country; she substitutes a South American sensibility, most pointedly on a cover of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
But like Peyroux’s album, “My One and Only Thrill” sounds like a Larry Klein album.
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For years, Illinois singer, songwriter, guitarist, violinist and whistler Andrew Bird has been knocking on the door of the big time. “Noble Beast” was preceded by major buzz that this would be his breakthrough CD, and it does deliver. Sound-wise, it is somewhat more accessible than past efforts, even if Bird still whistles, and fiddles in his idiosyncratic style. The baroque style here has echoes of My Morning Jacket’s mellower moments, with a touch of Sufjan Stevens. Lyrically, you just have to get accustomed to the idea that you’ll probably never quite wrap your mind around song titles like “Anonanimal,” or phrases like “Would the idea to you be laughable of a pale facsimile?”
Query: What is Bird doing on Fat Possum, a Mississippi label whose tagline is “raw and unpolished blues?”
When last we heard from George McConnell, he was being dropped from the lineup of Widespread Panic, in which he had replaced the late Michael Hauser. He doesn’t seem to be weeping over the parting of ways; while “Singles Only” opens with “Goodbye, So Long,” the driving beat and Allmansesque guitar break are entirely upbeat. Throughout the album, McConnell chases any blues away with ripping guitar and overall exuberance. The music is closer to the spiky, quirky NRBQ than the Southern jams of Panic.