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Month: September 2019

The Sinatras

Lisa has been holding down the fort on reviews lately, as I’ve been hammered with work in my day job. In lieu of new music, I have a few posts that I’ve been sitting on that are unlike most IC posts. Now would be a good time to unleash them, though! I’m clearly not getting anything else done. This below list of fictional artists started as a joke between several friends and I, thinking about all the ways that names of bands can often tell you what genre they belong in. So, without further adieu: all the Sinatras.

Blank Sinatra – Puddle of Mudd mentored them
Clank Sinatra – on tour with Nine Inch Nails
Crank Sinatra – dubstep 4 life
Dank Sinatra – acoustic guitar, cajon, and stand-up bass
Drank Sinatra – Trying to get Lil Jon to listen to his mixtape
Frank Sinatra – actually Frank Sinatra
Flank Sinatra – actually a livestreaming video game player
Gank Sinatra – goofy, nerdy indie pop
Hank Sinatra – Nashville’s finest
Jank Sinatra – Biggest influence: Weezer
Lank Sinatra – Tall, skinny, and very into Death Cab
Manx Sinatra – Female rapper?
Planck Sinatra – Science-obsessed minimalist techno
Prank Sinatra – on tour with They Might Be Giants
Qank Sinatra – Sun Ra-style wild instrumental space stuff
Rank Sinatra – Weird, spooky solo art rock act
Sank Sinatra – R&B bangerz
Shank Sinatra – golfcore
Stank Sinatra – also on tour with TMBG
Skank Sinatra – the inevitable ska band
Spank Sinatra – spiky hair early ‘00s pop-punk
Tank Sinatra – easily the most metal name on this list
Thank Sinatra – twee tunes on an ukulele
Wank Sinatra – provocateur Prince knockoff
Yank Sinatra – trying to be part of Daddy Yankee’s posse

The Wood Brothers invite fans into musical history with Live At The Fillmore

1805 Geary Boulevard in San Francisco, better known as The Fillmore, first opened in 1912. A part of rock and roll history, the venue is the perfect place for The Wood Brothers‘ new album Live at The Fillmore via Honey Jar/Thirty Tigers. 

For the most part, I am not a fan of live albums. I am often unsatisfied. The Wood Brothers took on the responsibility of capturing an authentic musical experience from a room where Hendrix, Joplin, and Muddy Waters left their vibe in the air–a daunting task. Yet the way these fourteen genre-defying tracks sound, maybe there were some angels at the soundboard. 

What makes this a must-have live album? There is something pure here in songs like “Chocolate On My Tongue” that feels like being there. Honest and real, like life can’t be better than this moment. With a simple guitar and a reverent audience, being part of this transformative moment brings a tear to my eyes, reminding me there are a million reasons to live. That feeling is why I love live music, period. “Sparkling Wine” shines, catching the ghost of Jerry Garcia in the room. I’m no Deadhead, but this cut is alive with something otherworldly. Bassist Chris Woods shines here. 

The other thing that makes a good live album? Well, The Wood Brothers have never been better. Out of fourteen songs, some definite stars stand out. Cris Wood’s fuzzed-up bass licks in “Snake Eyes” drive the tempo, wrapped in Oliver Wood’s excellent guitar runs. A masterclass in ramping up the tempo, each chorus roars with gang vocals into a crash. “Keep Me Around” pulls in a feel-good stroll and displays stunning songwriting. Pure and simple, the pacing is sweet. (Shout-out to drummer/keyboardist Jano Rix on sitar!) In contrast, “Raindrop” oozes with imagery and metaphor over a dirty bass grind. 

There is a new sadness to “River Takes The Town” in the aftermath of Dorian’s devastation. Always poignant, this now takes on a whole new meaning. The Wood Brothers brilliantly follow up with the snarky strut “Glad,” whose fuzzed-out guitars seem to ooze sarcasm. Further rejoicing in the gift of breath, this celebration fits with a roar of the crowd. Rix performing both drums and keyboards makes a new cacophony, translating his work from the studio onto the stage. Pleasingly, this album is fourteen tracks rich with musicality, not filled with incessant jams. The Wood Brothers are having fun sharing their joy with those of us that couldn’t be there, isn’t that what I am hearing? 

“Happiness Jones/Express Yourself” is the one jam, easing on towards the end of the record and the show. Really, the gift of The Wood Brothers Live at The Fillmore adds to rock and roll history as one of my all-time favorite live albums ever. –Lisa Whealy

The New Mastersounds transform beautifully and soulfully

Transformation–that metamorphosis, shaking off one form in order to be reborn–can be a tricky thing. Embracing profound change, The New Mastersounds leave twenty years of instrumental funk behind with the release of Shake It on Color Rad.

Born of the UK club scene, the band’s core is built on a bedrock of the Gibson-guitar-slinging singer Eddie Roberts’ jazz-funk groove, Simon Allen’s deadly serious acoustic drums, and Pete Shand’s beautifully meshing bass. Seasoned Leeds piano/organ player Joe Tatton rounds out the sound. Longtime contributor Mike Olmos on trumpet welcomes Jason Mingledorff (toured with St. Paul and The Broken Bones) on flute and sax into the fold as a guest.

Denver’s Color Red Studios, producer Eddie Roberts, tracking engineers Mike Tallman and Dan Cohn, mastering engineer Doug Krebs and vinyl mastering engineer Carl Saff (which I cannot speak to yet) represent the team behind this sonically impeccable release. Listeners can hear the space between the vibrations of Shand’s bass licks and the jazz-driven riffs Roberts famously throws down, all amidst horns and Allen’s steady drum beat. Each instrument resonates in an extraordinary way. This is mind blowing technical work!

This record introduces guest vocalist Lamar Williams, Jr., the son of late Allman Brothers bassist Lamar Williams. I could guess he grew up immersed in music. Shake It is a soul joyride back to a 60s R&B groove that surged through the charts. Adding Williams, Jr., with his vocal vibe reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield, shapes the sound of most of the album’s eleven tracks. From the downbeat of “Shake It,” long-time fans of New Mastersounds fans will feel the party has changed. And changed for the better, as Williams, Jr. elevates the band’s sound by adding another dimension to a band already known for its funked-up jazz groove. Williams, Jr. delivers, carrying the band’s metamorphosis into the best of R&B whiplashed through basic elements of The New Mastersounds.

Shifting to a soul vibe on “Let’s Go Back,” organ and bass dance to a dirty groove James Brown would be proud of. Even though it’s a departure from the sound the band is known for, this is just plain cool. This one’s a classic, the signature cut of the release. Truly a throwback, Robert’s guitar reverb struts with Olmos and Tatton, all while Allen’s soft steady beat keeps time. It feels like 1967, with great soul coming from Custom Records. The essence of that genius has been captured and recreated here.

“Love They Deserve” captures the funky dance groove. Getting into the meat of the record, “Taking Me Down” feels crazed, reflecting the blistering guitar-driven tempo. Jazz-driven high anxiety is incredible. The cut includes guest Jeff Franca on percussion, helping set the pace.

Transitioning The New Mastersounds’ identity effectively needed a strategy, since certainly some longtime fans would be angered at the abandonment of the purely instrumental jazz-funk fusion. That said, “Too Late To Worry” is perfection. Highlighting Jason Mingledorff’s flute as an easy transition to Williams, Jr. smooth vocals, this track seems to be a warm embrace, appeasing conflict and channeling an essence of Marvin Gaye. Shand lays down a masterclass in bass, subtly driving the frame of the composition for all other instrumentation to hang their notes on. Less funk and more jazz/soul, this is among the best cuts of the record in its pure musicality.

“Layin Low” is a pure instrumental for New Mastersounds purists. The best of what has given the band its longevity is here, but it’s a quick hit into the massively uptempo “Live Your Life Free” and its crazy Joe Tatton keyboard runs. “Permission to Land” features Franca again on percussion adding to Simon Allen’s steady backline.

Going forward, The New Mastersounds are strolling easy in a new direction. They’re musically not settling on being just a great jazz-funk-infused instrumental powerhouse. The addition of guest Lamar Williams, Jr. connects rock and roll blood, creating soul that resonates for new generations. Wow! –Lisa Whealy

Jacob Faurholt’s lyrical craftsmanship shines

Even though Denmark’s Jacob Faurholt is prolific via his solo project and his more eclectic experimental project Crystal Shipsss, not enough noise has been made about his skill as a songwriter. Released through Faurholt’s label Raw Onion Records, Shake Off The Fear is folk rock for the truly imaginative human. Fear is this album’s thematic compass, as the nine songs reveal a man who has lived, loves, and has grieved the loss of life. 

The record features a variety of sounds and references coming together effectively. Faurholt’s vocal phrasing and tone mirrors superstar Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones on “Stargazing”–it’s a little freaky. Nadia Sharpe Faurholt blends sweetly on the duet “Hide From The Dark.” In its authentic love, an essence of Jason Molina’s Songs:Ohia oozes through. Shifting gears, “Super Sorry” pulls in the talents of Rasmus Fink on drums and Anders Ahle on bass into this well paced tune. Fleshed out completely with Victor Kim’s electric guitar, this is a 1960’s rock and roll flashback masterfully executed. 

“The Burning Ship” features Jacob Faurholt’s banjo-driven emotion, stopping time for a moment in remembrance of a 1990 Scandanavian ferry disaster that claimed the life of his childhood friend. Authentic, hollow, with painfully stark and perfectly executed production choices by Victor Kim, this track shows how important restraint can be. Each purposeful note is steeped in anxiety, as the ghosts of troubadours like Tom Waits sway. Those solid production choices combined with Andy Magoffin’s strong mixing and mastering make this album is fantastic technical work. 

Halfway through Shake Off The Fear, standout cut “The Dark Isn’t Right” reverberates like a cinematic crash of expansive concepts set to a musical waltz. Ahle on piano and slide guitar joins Faurholt’s acoustic guitar with plaintive vocals reminiscent of the great Neil Young, creating a vibe Conor Oberst would appreciate. Hauntingly breathtaking lyrics pack a moody compositional punch. Understated, expressive genius reminds us all we are all afraid of the dark sometimes. The album’s cover art with William Kudahl’s Mars-scape layout containing a solitary guitarist pushes at Faurholt’s status as a father, partner, and leader.

Turning toward the end of a journey of self-discovery, “Dark Moons” hits quickly. In a little more than two minutes, the mood has changed. An ethereal harmony swings into the final tracks and “Satellite” is a love song whose orbit resonates. Skilled at his craft, Faurholt’s quirky imagery is sometimes reminiscent of Rivers Cuomo of Weezer. So what is binding the man together, serving as connective tissue allowing him to “Shake Off The Fear”? The joy of records like this is that there are an infinite number of answers, all meaningful and true. 

“Rainbow in the Sky” brings a forty-year-old songwriter’s evolution full circle. Acoustic guitar drives this closer, breathing sweetly the joys of love and grief to illuminate the beauty, like a rainbow after a summer rainstorm clears. Jacob Faurholt’s Shake Off The Fear may be channeling his heroes with love and blotting out fear with music. His voice as a lyrical craftsman has certainly earned him a spot in top releases of 2019. —Lisa Whealy