“We’ll build it right,” Vocalist Drew Thams sings at one point in the middle of the slow-burning ballad, “Iris Song”. When Tham’ sings “we’ll build it right”, he’s referring to a relationship, but you can’t help but get the feeling that he’s talking about his band and a quest for credibility.
As the singer and songwriter for The Liquorsmiths, Thams is the architect behind the band. His songs that fill the Liquorsmith’s latest release This Book Belongs To, takes cues from Americana, Folk-Rock and songwriters from the early ’70s. There’s a passion and a knack for good songwriting found here (check out the laid-back country-tinged shuffle of “Get Well Soon” and the aforementioned “Iris’ Song”), but too often this set sounds like a quest to be taken seriously.
Comparisons have been made between The Liquorsmiths and Alt-Country pioneers Wilco. At times, you can hear Wilco’s influence and occasionally Tham’ does sound a bit like Jeff Tweedy. But even at their most Alt-Country moments, Wilco was always pushing themselves forward and mixing noisier elements with ones of beauty.
That sort of experimentation is nowhere to be found on This Book Belongs To. It mostly keeps to an easy approach, augmented by Tham’ acoustic guitar and soft drums provided by Clayton Payne. The band’s secret weapon is keyboardist Ryan Fischer who gives some depth with his playing on songs like “Devil I Do.”
This Book Belongs To is a fine set and worth a listen, but at certain times you wish the band would push themselves a little further. They’re certainly talented enough.
Check out “Get Well Soon” below:
On the surface, Nature Ganganbaigal’s The Mantra isn’t that much different than his To Where Tengger Leads Me. Gangabaigal’s music is still rooted in Asian Folk music and its epic sweep. On Mantra, the electronic elements that hang underneath as a way a sort of gateway for Western Ears is gone in favor of a more traditional sounding record.
As listeners, we’re better off for it. The sounds of Ganganbaigal’s native Mongolia truly come alive in a way that wasn’t apparent on To Where Tengger Leads Me. There’s no pretense of trying to fuse two distinct cultures together, it’s just the sound of a brilliant art sublimely paying homage to his heritage.
In a way, the music found here isn’t all that different in terms of delivery than American Jazz. Ganganbaigal’s instruments weave in and out of each other seamlessly. The hand drums create more of a cushion for sounds to bounce off, rather than an anchor from which everything falls into place. The Mongolian fiddle, (Morin khuur) creates an eerie sound that at times scary and comforting with its two strings. It’s the fiddle’s sound that most listeners associate with traditional Asian Folk Music.
If you’re into exploring world music, The Mantra is a good place to start and it’s definitely worth your time.
Stream the album here, and for more info on Ganganbaigal check out his Facebook page.
Vince Grant has been featured on Leading Us Absurd a couple times before, because his latest album My Depression is Always Trying to Kill Me is highly recommended. Single “Melancholia” is the sound of a singer-songwriter baring his soul out for everyone to hear. Still, there’s a hint of hope in the song’s arrangement and sparse electric guitars and Grant’s voice. Without a doubt, Grant is a singer-songwriter who deserves more attention.
Grant recently released an intimate video for “Melancholia” and you can check it out above.
California’s no:carrier’s Ghosts of the West Coast isn’t so much a covers EP, but rather a completely new telling on some familiar songs. This electro-tinged set is full of melancholic beats and synths that bring an aura of heartbreak, loss and regret. Each song is sung by a different vocalist who gives each their own unique perspective. The band describes the EP as the “American dream deferred.”
Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer” has long been a perennial favorite, ands here its shinny surface is replaced by a feeling of sadness that really brings out the lyrics in a way like never before. Sung Kalib DuArte by It’s no longer the shiny pop song you’re familiar with but rather a lament on times past and a loss of innocence. Belinda Carlisle’s “California” is a moody piece with icy tinges that showcases the darker side of the state. “It took a lot for me to stay,” Melissa Harding laments in a way that really makes you feel her struggle.
The most interesting piece on the set is the update on the traditional Irish song, “She Moved Through the Fair”. That song has alway been mournful and sad, but no:carrier’s own Cynthia Wechselberger gives a truly haunting performance over the cold and distant music. To paraphrase Led Zeppelin, the song remains the same in terms of melody, but it’s given a contemporary spin that is really interesting and beautiful.
Ghosts of the West Coast shows that covers don’t have to be faithful to the originals to be worth listening. No:Carrier have deconstructed much of these songs and brought out some interesting perspectives in these songs that you might not have noticed before.
For more information on no:carrier check out their web-site.
“Cha Cha Cha D’Amour”, the latest single from Michael Cullen finds the singer-songwriter in total Nick Cave/Leonard Cohen mode. The mid-tempo song slowly unfolds like a hazy summer night. The music is dense and thick, with the drums giving the song just a bit of heft. The rhythm provides leaves plenty of space for Cullen and his band to provide jagged pieces of guitar that cut through the fog, giving a sense of danger and paranoia. If you’ve ever seen the Netflix show, Peaky Blinders “Cha Cha Cha D’Amour”, would fit in perfectly with the show’s soundtrack.
“I’ve been crashed, I’ve been burned, but I’m as good as new,” Cullen sings with just a hint of spit and disgust. You can tell that Cullen isn’t letting past transgressions go away easily.
True Believer (the album which “Cha Cha Cha D’Amour” can be found), finds Cullen trying to figure out if he should be mournful or pissed at his past life. You can read my original review of True Believer here.
Kiravell’s Vaudevillia! is an exercise in genre-busting and experimentation. It’s the sound of a a musical traveler who shoves all of her ideas and influences – jazz, indie rock, world music, elements of hip-hop – so much into Vaudevillia! that the record is practically At bursting at the seems with originality.
At times, Vaudevillia! reminds me of a bit of M.I.A.’s early work. Not so much in terms of sound, but in execution, attitude and a general willingness to try anything. Whereas, M.I.A. used Hip Hop and Electronica as her template while incorporating different sounds, Kiravell uses Jazz piano as a starting point. Almost all of the songs here are based around Kiravell’s haunting piano melodies, but the song structures and sound collages are hardly traditional. There are also hints of Anti-Folk hero Regina Spektor too.
Opener “Pache Mama” begins the set with Kiravell’s stream of consciousness spoken words over a soft piano which is given a harder edge with a hip-hop inspired beat behind it. Mid-way through the song, the tempo changes and an instrumental break-down appears showcasing Kiravell’s awesome piano skills. “Veiled Lady” is slightly uncomfortable (in a good way) due its use of strings, dense production and shifting dynamics.
Those tensions and unconventional song structures make Vaudevillia! a compelling listen. Each subsequent experience is new, bringing out various sounds and ideas that you might not have noticed previously. That’s the sign of a good record and a good artist.
On the other hand, because of that Vaudevillia! is not a particularly easy listen. This is not something you put on in the background (nor should you, come to think of it.) It demands you to know a little bit more about music and music theory to truly “get” it. If you’re up for the challenge and are well-versed in various genres of music, then you’ll find Vaudevillia! to be a rewarding listen.
For more info on Kiravell, visit her Facebook page.