Morcheeba: Blood Like Lemonade


RIYL: Zero 7, Sade, Wire Daisies

It might feel like an eternity since lead singer Skye Edwards left Morcheeba (2003), leaving the brothers Godfrey to experiment on a couple of albums with different guest vocalists. But with Morcheeba’s latest, Blood Like Lemonade, Edwards has returned and it’s like the band hasn’t missed a beat – i.e., the reincarnation of Morcheeba as we knew it is back and better than ever. The trippy, bluesy electronica that put Morcheeba on the map is still mostly the same, but the songs on Blood Like Lemonade are slickly produced and, well, just damn good. Edwards’ voice is plain dreamy, and these songs are the perfect vehicle for that voice to shine. Most of the tracks are the band’s signature marriage of melody and electronica, as in “Crimson,” the title track and “Recipe For Disaster.”

But there are interesting tracks on here that bring Blood Like Lemonade to another level. The acoustic-guitar-with-beat-infused “Even Though”; the stunning guitar/vocal “I Am the Spring”; and the powerful closing anthem “Beat of the Drum.” Oh, and there’s also the uber-funky pseudo-instrumental, “Cut to the Bass,” which is probably best enjoyed in a very loud, dark, club. If you were already a fan or Morcheeba, you won’t find much wrong with this effort – if you weren’t, it’s the kind of genre-defying albums that just about anyone will like. (Pias America 2010)

Morcheeba MySpace page

Morcheeba MySpace Page

  

The Orb featuring David Gilmour: Metallic Spheres

RIYL: The KLF, Pink Floyd, LSD

When the Orb first broke through into somewhat mainstream appeal with their 1991 epic The Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld, some critics immediately drew comparisons between the ambient house outfit and classic prog rock of the 1970s. Both featured sprawling audio soundscapes, both included tracks that dipped well over 10 minutes in length, and both sounded amazing while under the influence of psychedelics. So while it’s kind of surprising that David Gilmour of Pink Floyd fame is working with the ambient-house legends, its even more surprising is that it took this long.

The story behind Metallic Spheres is a bit odd. Originally it was going to be a single track collaboration between occasional Orb collaborator Martin “Youth” Glover and Gilmour, but after Orb mastermind Alex Paterson got a hold of the tapes, he decided to turn it into an entire album instead. Its not exactly the most organic or natural way of recording an album, but it’s hard to argue with the results; Metallic Spheres is bloody brilliant, the best album to feature the Orb’s name in well over a decade. Unlike many of the recent releases under the Orb name, Metallic Spheres finds Paterson returning to what he (used to) do best; longform ambient tracks. There are only two “songs” on Metallic Spheres; “Metallic Side” and “Sphere Side” and on the CD version there’s barely a noticeable break in between the two. It’s all one big sonic journey that’s nearly impossible to describe since it goes just about everywhere imaginable. Some portions feature nothing but barely-noticeable beats and layers upon layers of Gilmour’s instantly recognizable guitar work, while some segments turn the record into a dub album, with funky beats and playful synths. It all peaks in an orgy of sliding guitars and vintage synths that sounds like the magical Moog baby of Pink Floyd’s Animals and Vangelis’ soundtrack to “Blade Runner.” It’s all very epic and very awesome. (Columbia 2010)

  

Lollapalooza 2010, The Final Recap: The Opening Acts

In this final installment of our recap of Lollapalooza 2010, we cover the stars of tomorrow, or what is known in baseball circles as the Futures Game. Well, most of them are potential stars of tomorrow, anyway. One of them was a big time star of the past, and not even one with hipster cred like Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, or Roky Erickson. Easily the biggest blemish on the lineup as a whole. Going a bit overboard in bashing the band, you say? Ha. We’re just getting warmed up.

Foxy Shazam, Friday, Sony Bloggie Stage
Our man Eldred is into these wildly ambitious Cincinnati glam rockers a tad more (which is to say, about a million times more) than we are, but after reading Eldred’s amusing interview with Foxy lead singer Eric Sean Nally, where he swore they could win over any crowd, we knew a bet when we saw one. Sadly, we missed the majority of the set thanks to the new reworking of the grounds (enter at Roosevelt? Dude, that’s a mile from here), but once we arrived, we got their appeal, instantly. And if we didn’t, their closing number sealed the deal. Nally leapfrogged onto the guitarist’s shoulders, who didn’t miss a beat on his solo until Nally started kicking his guitar. The keyboardist is literally stomping on the keys, and not Jerry Lee Lewis-style – more like Dance Dance Revolution-style. Nally then took off one of the drummer’s cymbals and chucked it at the drums before walking off the stage. The crowd went absolutely fucking bonkers. Can’t say we blame them.

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Photo by Ashley Garmon

Nally also had the best between-song banter of the weekend, where he spoke of how his father knew John Lennon, which we’re pretty sure is bollocks. Either way, this was the best first performance we’ve seen since Hard-Fi in 2005.

HEALTH, Sunday, adidas MEGA Stage
Our boy Eldred was most impressed with this band, claiming that the blew the bad weather away with pure noise. The former sounds nice, the blowing away the weather. The latter, well, it depends. Are we talking Pixies/My Bloody Valentine noise, or, you know, noise noise?

(*hits band’s MySpace page*)

Ooh, My Bloody Valentine noise. Damn. Sorry we missed this one.

Stars, Saturday, Budweiser Stage
As a means of eliminating accidental bias – hey, we’re human, it happens – we tend to listen to bands knowing as little about them as possible. There are drawbacks to this, of course, especially if you cling to your hipster credibility like an oxygen mask. For example, we had no idea until after we were writing up Stars’ performance that they were all members of the much-beloved Broken Social Scene, which has ties to every Canadian band from the last 30 years. If we had, then perhaps we would have felt an urge to find a better superlative to describe their set than ‘pleasant.’ Ah, but hipster credibility means absolutely nothing to us, so here it is: they were fine, and occasionally great. (Their song “We Don’t Want Your Body” is easily the best track on their new album The Five Ghosts.) But at 2:00 in the afternoon on a steamy Saturday, we were perfectly content to lounge in the wake zone between the northern stages and let the mind wander. Read into that what you will.

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Photo by Dave Mead

Skybox, Saturday, BMI Stage
It warms our hearts to see a group of kids play the kind of pop that their parents would have listened to as kids. We can’t imagine that they stand much of a chance in terms of radio success, but they might become soundtrack darlings, and goodness knows that’s a more lucrative career path these days than banking on radio to sell your record. We’re not sure the songwriting is at peak level yet, but they have the right idea, that’s for sure.

Nneka, Sunday, Parkways Foundation Stage
Eldred’s last five words made us glad we skipped her, especially considering she played in the middle of a rain shower with gale-force winds: “Too quiet for a festival.” This same thing plagued Neko Case last year, and we would listen to Neko sing the ingredients to a can of soup. Gorgeous voice, but sometimes the music just can’t measure up to the atmosphere. Props to Perry for trying to inject a little variety (read: color) into the lineup, but he’d be wise to take energy into consideration, especially on a Sunday when everyone is already wiped out.

Ancient Astronauts, Friday, Perry’s
The new Perry’s stage, and the space in front of it, is twice the size of last year’s location, and that’s good because it got really tight there last year, especially when Perry himself made an appearance. We dug the last Ancient Astronauts record, a strange blend of New York hip hop and French sensibility, but what we saw of their DJ set was pretty flat. Aside from a fun mash-up involving “Blitzkrieg Bop,” they seemed trapped in a reggae fugue. We lasted 15 minutes.

Astronauts_01
Photo by Matthew Taplinger

See that hat he’s wearing? They were inescapable all weekend, and every time we saw one – which was a lot – we thought, “Tool.” Just sayin’. If you own one, put it in the closet. Or better yet, throw it away.

The Soft Pack, Saturday, Budweiser Stage
It’s hard to stand apart from the guitar alt-rock crowd these days, and granted, these guys didn’t do a great job of standing apart themselves, but there was something in their sound that caught our ear. A similarity to Catherine Wheel, perhaps, or perhaps we were just relieved that someone was coming out of the gate bringing the energy, because Lollapalooza isn’t a music festival so much as a grueling three-day death march of music (if you’re over 30, that is). Bands like the Soft Pack at noon on Saturday are the equivalent of a shot of adrenaline to the heart. Once they were finished, we felt kind of bad for them once we saw that they’d be followed by the decidedly softer Wild Beasts. Don’t let the name fool you, they are anything but.

Blues Traveler, Saturday, Parkways Foundation Stage
Blues Traveler has played every even-numbered Chicago Lolla. The only thing we can’t figure out is why.

Modern rock radio hasn’t touched them since 1995. They never played any of the touring Lollas, receiving their first invite in 2006. Granted, much of that was due to the fact that John Popper & Co. were tied up with the traveling jam band H.O.R.D.E. tours until 1998, but doesn’t that alone demonstrate just how much one of these things is not like the others? Yes, there is some crossover between the festivals in terms of artists, but they largely involved the bands that were exceptions to the H.O.R.D.E. philosophy, not the other way around. And since they’ve been playing the festival every other year in the last five years, they haven’t been gone long enough for people to miss them now. For us, Blues Traveler at Lolla is like Homer Simpson reading a Far Side calendar: “I don’t get. I don’t get it. I….don’t get it.”

All right, rant over. Truth be told, we only heard their first two songs, “Runaround” (leading with the hit? Unheard of) and…wait for it…a cover of Sublime’s “What I Got.” Knowing wink, or calculated attempt to wring nostalgia from a moment that doesn’t call for it? You be the judge. We’ve judged enough as it is.

Raphael Saadiq, Friday, Parkways Foundation Stage
This is admittedly another ‘one of these things is not like the other’ situation, but as big fans of Saadiq’s 2008 album The Way I See It, we were thrilled that he brought his pitch-perfect Motown groove to Lolla. (Why they decided to have Mavis Staples play at the same time on the north side, however, was a head-scratcher.) Armed with a crack band – our friend Tim, a drummer, was most impressed with Saadiq’s drummer – Saadiq played a slightly sped-up version of his catalog, and threw everyone for a loop when his all-black band laid down the hardest guitar riff that anyone played all day. Smart move, given the crowd they were playing to were pretty damn white (hey, they were on the stage that Lady Gaga would grace six hours later). We even caught a guy so caught up in the groove that he danced like he didn’t have a care in the world. While our buddy Tim said, “Man, I’m so glad that’s not you,” we were actually moved by his lack of self-awareness. He was completely caught up in the moment; that’s what it’s all about in the end, right?

  

Anne McCue: Broken Promise Land


RIYL: Susan Tedischi, Lucinda Williams, Sheryl Crow,

On her second album, Broken Promise Land, Anne McCue delivers a tightly produced group of songs that is well paced and refreshing.  For the record, she’s backed by a rhythm section that consists of Ken Coomer (Uncle Tupleo, Wilco) on drums and Bones Hillman (Midnight Oil) on bass. Together, this trio creates a hard rocking sound that also pulls from the blues, country, and folk. It’s music that McCue calls “cosmic biker music.” On each track, the singer sings with a cool, lovely voice that draws you in. But it’s her killer guitar playing that keeps you coming back for more and her ability to write a catchy song that makes Broken Promise Land so memorable.

Bad ass songs like “Don’t Go to Texas,” “Rock ‘n Roll Outlaw,” and the title track show that McCue is staking her claim in the new blues movement that has made the White Stripes and the Black Keys popular. Elsewhere, on “Motorcycle Dream,” and “God’s Home Number,” a noirish, spooky number that reminds me of late night drives through the city, McCue uses crafty wordplay and a cool, slinky voice to lure you in until she unleashes a killer guitar solo.  Each track on Broken Promise Land flows naturally into the next, making this a complete listening experience and not just another album where you’re looking for the next hit single.

It’s easy to understand why McCue has gained fans in the likes of Nancy Wilson of Heart and Americana queen Lucinda Williams. McCue attacks her guitar on each song with a bevy of blues and classic rock that recalls some of the legends of the ’70s, including Wilson, while her songwriting and singing voice have an urgency and a haunted nature that recall the kind of passionate southern tales Williams has recorded during her storied career. There is a comfortableness about this music that makes it kind of timeless; no matter how many times you hear it, you never get sick of it. It’s the type of music that can form the soundtrack to peoples’ lives.  Broken Promise Land is a great listen and you’ll find yourself coming back to it again and again after your initial time through it. (Flying Machine Records 2010)

Anne McCue’s offcial website

Click to buy Broken Promise Land through Amazon

  

School of Seven Bells: Disconnect from Desire


RIYL: My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Chapterhouse

Neil Hannon recently quipped in his song “At the Indie Disco” about how “we’re dancing to the beat, and staring at each other’s feet.” One wonders if the indie disco in question was playing School of Seven Bells, because their sophomore album, Disconnect from Desire, is one of the finer shoegazer records from this or any other era (which is to say the only other era, the early ’90s). The drum tracks recall the 808/909 period while maintaining a modern feel, and the harmonies of twin singers Alejandra and Claudia Deheza create the ultimate siren’s call, an ethereal bliss that makes the most crushing one-liner feel like a soft kiss goodnight. “I L U” is the album’s crown jewel, reimagining My Bloody Valentine’s “Soon” as a tender breakup song (bonus points for its dead simple three-note chorus), while the jangly “Babelonia” sends a knowing wink to Jesus Jones’ “International Bright Young Thing” with Deheza’s wavering vocal.

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It’s curious that a shoegazer renaissance would take hold in today’s climate, especially when it was only marginally successful the first time around. Ah, but nostalgia is a powerful thing, and there are few periods as beloved by music hounds as the go-go modern rock scene of the early ’90s, when grunge and baggy still coexisted peacefully. Disconnect from Desire distills the ecstasy-fueled elements of those early shoegazer records with a healthy dose of pop songcraft. The end result, at the risk of sounding cliche, is dreamy. (Vagrant/Ghostly International 2010)

School of Seven Bells MySpace page
Click to buy Disconnect from Desire from Amazon

  

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