2013 was a productive year for British prog maestro Steven Wilson. He released his third solo record, the extremely proggy The Raven that Refused to Sing (and other stories) to wide acclaim, which was followed then by a world tour that culminated in a spectacular homecoming show at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Not content to rest on his laurels, Wilson has hopped back into the studio with the band he assembled for The Raven, and is gearing up for a February 2015 release of solo LP number four.
A. Sinclair, the Austin by way of Boston rock outfit helmed by Aaron Sinclair, has come up with a rather interesting number in “Pretty Girls in Pretty Tights”, the title-alluding track off of its latest EP, Pretty Girls. What appears to be a straightforward, driving rock tune on the surface has a rather interesting lyrical story behind it.
As with the Afghan Whigs’ most successful work, the new video for “Lost in the Woods” is a study in the contrast between light and dark. The black and white video directed by Phil Harder is a precise visual representation of the song, its oppressive yet intriguingly dour atmosphere built upon stark, minor piano notes offset by lightly twinkling ivory. Come the chorus, it takes on transcendent energy with pounding drums and Greg Dulli crooning in his upper register. In the second verse, it backslides into a sonorous cello’s boat-rowing rhythm before the refrain surges back with Dulli delivering the climax of his oblique cautionary tale.
Between the plaintive vocals and evocative piano of Euan McMeeken and the distorted soundscapes of guitarist Matthew Collings, which combine forces under the name of Graveyard Tapes, there is a perplexing magic. Hailing from the fair city of Edinburgh, they have that quietly triumphant, slightly depressing, poetic and thoughtful Scottish joie de vivre. The imagery is apocalyptically epic, yet there is a lightness to the album, a vulnerability in the vocals and an ineffable fragility in the ramshackle, organic percussion and brooding piano-based instrumentals outlined by the creaks and groans of analog instrumentation, like it all might crumble into dust at any moment, but their indomitable spirit keeps their corporeal form together.