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

  

Sugar Army: The Parallels amongst Ourselves


RIYL: Interpol, Red Light Company, Neil Finn

“Detach,” the third track on Sugar Army’s debut, needs to be placed on everyone’s iPod immediately, and also included on every playlist therein (yes, even the one with Nat “King” Cole and Perry Como that you don’t tell anyone about). Sinister, urgent, and undeniably propulsive, it exemplifies the best aspects of the record, slicing out of the speakers like an ICBM just before it hits its target. You should also reserve disc space for “Acute,” “You Are a Possession, Up for Sale,” and “Tongues in Cheeks” – hell, just put the whole thing on there. This is a terrific modern rock album, a serious blast from start to finish.

With a voice like a younger, more forceful Neil Finn, singer Patrick McLaughlin steers the Australian band’s tight groove without ever reining it in. Even on slower songs like “No Need for Lovers” he expresses something ominous and powerful, leaning out of the group’s intense sonics and pulling the listener in. The rhythm section – bassist Ian Berney and drummer Jamie Sher – are particularly locked in and menacing, especially Berney, whose low-end riffs gurgle and hum like some outback monster.

The Parallels amongst Ourselves simply must find an audience in the US. Check it out for yourself and spread the word. (Shock 2010)

Sugar Army’s Myspace Page
Click to buy The Parallels amongst Ourselves from Amazon

  

Jesca Hoop: Hunting My Dress


RIYL: Tom Waits, Petra Haden, Laura Marling


The slightly off-kilter wordless harmonies that open Jesca Hoop’s “Whispering Light” immediately inform you that you’re in for a strange and possibly wonderful listening experience. With her folk music pedigree and Tom Waits connection, Hoop creates a sound firmly grounded in traditional instrumentation, with flashes and trickles of oddball noise made strangely beautiful.

Hunting My Dress is one of those records that opens up with repeated listening, for those with the patience and persistence to remain engaged. The charms of “Feast of the Heart” might escape you at first – its distorted vocal and wild-ass percussion are not typical fodder for easy listening. Get past the initial shock of the noise, though, and the layers of longing reveal themselves. The little-girl voice Hoop uses in “Angel Mom” may initially seem put-offish, but listen to it again. Hear how that voice wraps itself around the story of the child whose mother “visited me from beyond,” and determine for yourself whether Hoop could sing in any other register and be as effective.

Or consider the title track, which closes the album, and does so with a nod toward traditional folk singing and tight, multi-part harmony. Hoop’s vision – indeed, her art – can be encapsulated in this very song – her beginnings reflected in the album’s end.

Listeners open to the possibilities of the un-obvious melody, an unexpected noisy flourish, or the simple charms of a plaintive voice telling a story, will likely appreciate the artistry at work in Hunting My Dress. It might take a bit of work to get to that point, but the effort is worth it. (Vanguard 2010)

Jesca Hoop’s Myspace Page
Click to buy Hunting My Dress from Amazon

  

The Law: A Measure of Wealth


RIYL: The Kooks, Dogs Die in Hot Cars, The Futureheads

Those coming to the Law via their international exposure on the soundtrack to “The Men Who Stare at Goats” might be a bit surprised when they listen to the rest of the album. Whether that is a pleasant surprise or not will simply be a matter of taste. A Measure of Wealth is just that, a little slice of energetic indie rock that begs the question whether a band from Dundee Scotland would be insulted to be called Brit-pop. Whatever their feelings, their influences are clearly ’80s and ’90s Brit-pop, more on the Blur side of the tracks than Oasis. They lack the Trad-rock elements of the Gallagher brothers, though the album was recorded at Sawmills Studios, the studio that gave birth to Definitely Maybe. This isn’t what you might expect after the lead track “Don’t Stop, Believe” (which is also found on the aforementioned soundtrack) comes blasting out like a Wolfmother lead. Full on blues-based hard rock, with Robert Plant-like wailing in the background, “Don’t Stop, Believe” is pedal-to-the-metal music, and nothing like what follows.

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As track one grinds down into a single Hammond chord, the album transforms and we are greeted with a heavily Pulp-influenced tune called “The Chase,” which truly sets the tone for everything to follow. The Pulp influence resurfaces in riffs and refrains throughout, but halfway through, on “Television Satellite” they drop any subtlety to wrap themselves fully in the glam-influence and swirling guitars of the biggest heroes of Brit-pop, Suede. More than a few tracks would have been right at home on an album like Coming Up, and this is a good thing. All in all, the Law have created a romp of an album, one that should be shuffled into any discerning college student’s party mix. So, while anyone looking for more stoner rock based on the opening track might be disappointed, A Measure of Wealth is a solid, energetic debut that shouldn’t be overlooked. (Local Boy Records 2010)

The Law MySpace page

  

Veil Veil Vanish: Change in the Neon Light


RIYL: Pom Pom Diary, The Sounds, White Lies

Metaphor time. Take a chocolate cake, for instance. Even a bad one has some tasty bits, and a good one is always a treat, no matter how many times you’ve had it before. Sure you can feel like you’ve OD’d on too much chocolate, but give it a little time, and you’ll be back for more.

A lot of rock music genres are the same way. The musical elements that define them as a genre or style are the same elements that become quite familiar and overused, both appealing and repetitive all at once. The heavily ’80s-influenced post punk revival of the past decade fits this description to a “T”, as does the debut album by Veil Veil Vanish, Change in the Neon Light. Only seconds in, it is obvious where the San Fran quartet got their recipe; it is all Cure, spiced with Echo & the Bunnymen, sprinkled with early U2 and iced with Gene Loves Jezebel. There is nothing subtle here, and one could argue it is derivative, but that is only on the surface. Take one big bite and you’ll find that Change in the Neon Light is one helluva good chocolate cake.

The atmospheric qualities of the entire album are shimmering and driving, an album full of layered guitars and danceable percussion. The opening title track and final song “Wilderness” perfectly bookend the darkly emotive mood that fills the album. Keven Tecon’s vocals are plaintive but never whiny, while Robert Marzio deserves MVP accolades for signature drums that carry every song forward relentlessly. The album never lets up. From beginning to end there is not a weak track, and it really hits its stride in the second half with “Secondhand Daylight,” where Amy Rosenoff’s bass line and Cameron Ray’s guitars play off each other expressively, and “Detachment,” which serves up Siouxsie Sioux-like power. “It’s no fun if it doesn’t leave a mark,” they sing, and this album proves the point.

Veil Veil Vanish (a name just ridiculous enough to stick) is a surprisingly strong as a band on this debut, and it bodes well for the future. They haven’t drastically changed the recipe in creating Change in the Neon Light, but they definitely know how to cook. Their debut sets a high bar for the next course. Recommended. (Metropolis Records 2010)

Veil Veil Vanish MySpace page

  

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