Greg Laswell: Covers

RIYL: Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley

With his previous albums, Greg Laswell established his penchant for cinematic soundscapes, purveying a downcast disposition and a haunting, shrouded motif that provided spectral settings for his weary ruminations. Now, he’s taking a brief detour from his own musings via this enticing five-song EP, which retraces songs by Echo and the Bunnymen, Morphine, Mazzy Star, Kristen Hersh and Kate Bush — and, in some cases, actually bests the originals. These songs were somewhat gloomy to begin with, and Laswell makes no attempt to alleviate the mood. Even so, he manages to add a new dimension; by giving a shadowy and shimmering sheen to “Killing Moon,” a lurching yet assertive stance to Hersh’s “Your Ghost,” and buoying the tempo on “In Spite Of Me,” Laswell effectively puts his imprint on each. Likewise, “Take Everything” retains the laconic feel of Mazzy Star’s original, while transforming the song into a stately piano recital, and his take on “This Woman’s Work” strips the song of its harsh veneer and replaces Bush’s signature sensuality with an emphasis on its gentle soul. Ultimately, like every effort in his repertoire, Covers affirms that Laswell’s an original. (Vanguard 2009)

Greg Laswell website


Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions: Through the Devil Softly

RIYL: Galaxy 500, The Innocence Mission, The Sundays

Call it music for insomniacs. Or anyone else that needs to catch up on their sleep. The second solo album by Hope Sandoval, late of ethereal ingénues Mazzy Star, not only maintains the same hazy drift and downcast drone of her former colleagues, but actually manages to take whatever minimal energy they mustered down another notch. Hushed and lethargic, Sandoval conveys a haunting, unhurried sound that’s immersed in spectral surroundings, contemplative musings and the occasional ominous overtones. Given their narcotic and nocturnal sensibilities, Sandoval and company seem hard-pressed to make a more emphatic impression, and even those songs that pass for sensual dreamscapes barely register beyond any cerebral set-ups.

Hope Sandoval Devil

Consequently, willowy offerings like “Blanchard,” “For the Rest of Your Life” and “Sets the Blaze” are more celestial than sublime, not exactly the type of thing that makes a lingering impression once the haze is lifted. So forget any notion of a sing-along. There’s not much of the Devil in these details. (Nettwerk 2009)

Hope Sandoval MySpace page